Funding available to cover supervision of students with special needs that could have prevented lawsuit, officials say

Funding available to cover supervision of students with special needs that could have prevented laws

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A high-ranking official with the state’s Department of Education says in the wake of a lawsuit filed against a school district that state schools receive hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to help for excess costs of educating students with special needs.

A mother is suing the Charleston County School District claiming it didn’t handle multiple incidents of bullying appropriately which ultimately led to her 10-year-old trying to take his own life.

According to the lawsuit filed on June 12, the child was enrolled at Deer Park Middle School in August of 2017. Charleston County School District employees at the school were made aware the 10-year-old suffered from an intellectual disability, the suit alleges.

The student’s disability is the reason the student had an Individualized Education Plan, also known as an IEP, in place.

“The IEP is both a process and a document that outlines the services that the student is expected to receive,” SC Department of Education’s Deputy Supt. John Payne says. “It really governs and creates this legally-binding document with the school district, parent and student as to what the child will get under law.”

This student’s IEP, according to the lawsuit, laid out that an employee was required to be with him at all times while on school property. The lawsuit states CCSD failed to do what was required.

”School districts have an obligation to provide whatever service they need. In South Carolina, we get about $200 million in federal funds to pay for special education in addition to the money that South Carolina provides through the Education Finance Act,” Payne says. “That money is to pay for some of these excess costs of educating students.”

Despite the IEP in place, the lawsuit claims there were four known incidents of bullying. The fourth bullying incident happened October 9, 2017. The next day, according to the lawsuit, the child tried to take his own life.

According to this lawsuit, after the child’s attempted suicide, a complaint was filed with the South Carolina Department of Education’s Office of Special Educational Service.

The suit says an investigation done by the OSES found the district had three violations.

"The safety, health and wellness of all of our students, and certainly our students with disabilities, is paramount,” Payne says.

Officials with the Charleston County School District say they do not comment on pending litigation.

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