Archive for Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Family counters district’s lawsuit

Special education students’ parents sue in federal court

October 11, 2000

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The Lawrence school district has been hit with a federal lawsuit from a family that wants to keep its sons in local schools.

Patrick Palcher and Diane Long-Palcher filed suit Sept. 29 in U.S. District Court, saying the district violated their son's rights by placing extra scrutiny on the backgrounds of children with special needs.

The district, every member of the school board and Douglas Eicher, the district's director of special services, were named as defendants.

School officials declined comment Tuesday.

The action comes in response to a state court lawsuit, filed by the district in April, that accused the Palchers of lying to get their sons into Lawrence schools.

One is enrolled in an autism program at Free State High School, the other in special-education programs at Sunflower elementary.

The district said the Palchers live in Kansas City, Kan., but claimed Lawrence residency.

The Palchers have denied the allegation.

Lawrence schools are "without the resources to accept nonresident students into the autism program," Overland Park attorney W. Joseph Hatley wrote in the district's initial lawsuit, which asked that the Palcher boys be removed from district schools.

Herb White, the Palchers' attorney, did not return calls for comment Tuesday. But in August, he said he would bring the federal lawsuit because it appeared pupils with disabilities were placed under greater scrutiny by district officials tracking enrollments than those without disabilities.

Students with disabilities are more costly for the district because of the extra attention those students require.

"It's our understanding the district is treating families differently depending on their class," White said in August.

School officials have denied the allegation.

According to Douglas County District Court documents, White asked Thursday that the district's lawsuit be delayed while the federal litigation is pending. District Judge Jack Murphy denied the request.

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