Parents of kindergartner voted out of class intend to sue
By Colleen Wixon
Originally published 06:32 p.m., June 6, 2008
Updated 06:45 p.m., June 6, 2008
ST. LUCIE COUNTY — The family of the kindergarten boy voted out of class last month is moving forward with a civil lawsuit, said the boy’s mother, Melissa Barton.
Barton said her attorney has put the St. Lucie County School District on notice he intends to file a civil lawsuit, claiming discrimination and that 5-year-old Alex Barton’s civil rights were violated.
A notice was filed with the district’s legal department, Barton said. The district now has six months to respond before an official lawsuit can be filed, she said.
Alex’s Morningside Elementary teacher, Wendy Portillo, allowed his classmates to tell him what they thought of his behavior, while he stood in front of the class, according to police reports of the incident. Portillo told investigators Alex had been misbehaving and had two disciplinary referrals that day.
The class then voted whether Alex should be allowed to stay in the class. Alex lost, 14 to 2.
Alex was officially diagnosed less than a week later with an autism-spectrum disorder, Barton said. He began the process of being tested for the disorder in February, at the suggestion of Morningside Principal Marcia Cully. Barton has said the teacher knew about the testing at the time of the vote.
Barton said her attorney, Jeff Vastola of Palm Beach County, is handling all legal aspects of the case. More doctor appointments are scheduled to determine how much damage was done to Alex because of the incident, she said.
The media attention in the issue has helped, she said. Alex enjoys seeing himself on television and watching himself talk, she said.
“That’s been an awesome form of therapy,” Barton said.
Barton said Alex has gotten an outpouring of support from all over the world. Many parents have shared their own struggles with school districts, she said.
The state Attorney General’s Office also is looking into the matter, as well as issues with other children brought out because of Alex’s case, Barton said.
“I’m learning more and more every day,” she said. “There is so much (information about other cases). It just breaks my heart.”