Richmond grandmother sues school district over treatment of grandson with disabilities

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RICHMOND, Ind. -- A Richmond grandmother says her 8-year-old grandson is being forced to play inside at his elementary school while others play outside. Indiana Disability Rights lawyers have joined her in suing the school district.

Carol Kuss says her grandson Trenton could be an Olympic athlete.

"He has a bad tendency to run and he’s very, very fast, very fast," she said.

It's Trenton's athleticism though that's becoming a safety risk for the boy with disabilities. Trenton has autism and ADHD. This year alone, Kuss says her grandson has ran out the front doors of Crestdale Elementary School at least 3 times.

"He made it through the playground, out around, through the parking lot, across a busy street," Kuss said.

She said Trenton even walked right into a stranger's house. Since Trenton started school there three years ago, Kuss says it's been an ongoing battle with Richmond Community Schools to keep her grandson safe. Not only does Trenton escape through the front doors, he also has a tendency to run away during outdoor recess. Because of this, and because other children in his special needs program do the same, Kuss has continuously asked the district to build a fence around the playground.

Currently, there's a partial fence around the playground, located in the back of the school, but it's only about 3/4 complete. After failed attempts at getting the school district to respond, Kuss said she reached out to Indiana Disability Rights lawyers.

"When you’re not able to go out to the outside playground, that plan isn't really adequate because they’re not being educated in what we would call the least restrictive environment," explained attorney Keith Butler.

Butler said the district is breaking two laws, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and The Americans with Disabilities Act.

"There’s a whole list of problems, but one very easy solution," Butler said.

The one solution, Butler said is to complete the fence around the building. Butler said the district told them they don't believe there's a need for the fence. The district did not respond to specific questions. They sent the following statement:

"Our school community safety is our top priority. We will work directly with any community member that has a concern.

"Federal law prohibits us to providing any detail regarding individual student needs or situations. We will work through the Indiana Department of Education dispute resolution process for any family member of  student with a special need that has a concern about their child."

"I'm not asking for the moon. All I want's a fence," Kuss said.

Butler said the next step is likely a resolution meeting, that will happen sometime this month. Next, if the parties can't come to an agreement, a hearing will take place in about three months. Butler is hopeful a resolution can be met that would allow for the completion of the fence before the start of school in the fall.

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