Heather Houston, mother of 21-year-old autistic, diabetic, and mute David Swanson, has been offered $86,000 from Northern California public school officials to move her son into a private school and to settle past and future complaints against the Yuba City Unified School District and the Sutter County Superintendent of Schools. The offer comes two weeks after Swanson was turned away from school on the first day of classes.
Houston argues that turning Swanson away is a direct violation of her son’s rights under the Department of Education’s Section 504 regulation that requires a school district to provide Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to each person with a disability “regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s disability.” Her son is eligible for FAPE until he turns 22 in spring 2014.
The complaints about Swanson’s education began last year when his private duty nurse of five years, Annette Armstrong, witnessed one of his teachers attempting to teach him table manners:
David didn't respond well because the teacher was forcing him to eat with a metal fork instead of a plastic one, Armstrong said. But they say David's autism renders him extra sensitive to metal, and he becomes agitated by the way metal forks feel against his teeth.
When Armstrong said she tried to intervene, the teacher ignored her, she said. When David spit the food out, she says the teacher pushed it back into his mouth and he eventually vomited.
Other formal complaints lodged by Swanson’s mother include his iPad—his main method of communication—being left out in the rain “for fear that he was bringing a recording device into the classroom” and an incident in which a teacher brought cupcakes for every student in class except Swanson.
Kim Bogard, lawyer for the Yuba City School District, has acknowledged that a settlement letter exists but will not comment on specifics. But Houston is currently telling Yuba City officials no. “You could offer me a million," she told KXTV. "I'm not going to take any money to sign away my son's rights to an education."
[Image and photo via ABCNews]