The Kennewick School District must pay a family more than $200,000 after they pulled their autistic son from the district’s schools and placed him in a residential treatment facility after ongoing incidents with his behavior, according to a court ruling.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hutton recently issued his judgment in the civil case filed by parents Eldon and Stephenie Monson on behalf of their teen son, identified only as E.M. in court documents.
The parents sought as much as $454,000 to reimburse them for the cost of placing their son in a private program, saying the district failed to properly educate their son and evaluate his needs.
The final ruling is more than the initial $50,000 an administrative law judge awarded the family in the fall of 2014. The Monsons appealed that decision, saying that judge did not properly calculate the cost of their son’s tuition and the district should pay the full cost of his enrollment elsewhere and the family’s legal costs.
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“I think my clients and I are relieved this is over,” said Portland-based attorney Diane Wiscarson on behalf of the Monsons.
The district declined to comment on the case, saying it is an ongoing legal issue.
I think my clients and I are relieved this is over.
Portland-based attorney Diane Wiscarson on behalf of the Monsons
E.M. attended Kennewick schools and began receiving special education services as early as first grade after it became clear he struggled with motor skills, sexually inappropriate behavior and staying focused on tasks.
His behavior worsened in middle school, with E.M. leaving school without permission and taking a bus to Columbia Center mall several times. He reportedly injured another student with a pencil in another incident.
E.M. began taking the family’s cars for drives in the eighth grade and injured passengers in at least one crash. That led his parents to put him in a residential facility except for the first semester of his freshman year, when he briefly returned to a Kennewick high school until his behavior escalated again.
The Monsons filed a claim with the district in April 2012, saying their son was denied a proper education and that they weren’t properly notified of how their son was doing academically and behaviorally when in Kennewick schools.
The district argued it shouldn’t be responsible for the cost of E.M.’s private counseling, additional evaluations and the cost of his residential treatment, according to court documents.
The district did offer the Monsons a settlement ahead of the 2014 ruling that would have covered some of their costs. But the family rejected it, as it would have required E.M. to return to a Kennewick school.