June 6, 2008

Alex Barton's Mom Intends to Sue

Here is the 'line' in my opinion.... I believe that when you receive as much media attention and support as Melissa Barton has received...when you can raise Autism awareness based on a single incident... when you can hit every newscast for a week and get the attention of the school district through literally thousands of emails and phone calls.. It is time to take pause and give people the opportunity to do the right thing. St. Lucie schools have already reported that they needed a few weeks for this to go through the normal process. Melissa Barton should concede and allow that to happen. Should NOTHING be done within a reasonable time then take a look at other options...Sheesh. Here's the article.. (don't get me wrong, Wendy Portillo and the school were wrong in my opinion, but we cannot expect change to policy overnight. We have to allow the school boards the opportunity to do their jobs... this could end up counter-productive in advocacy rather than helpful.)

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

— 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.” 


Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Agreed. I'd like to see her hold off on the lawsuit, but I can understand her anger.

Maddy said...

Well this is a rather litigious country, so it's hard for me to be objective.

I know that if it were my child I'd be laying low for a while to regroup. It would be a twofold strategy, finding good advice on how to bolster my child's shattered sense of self, with an eye on the calendar to see if the school follow through.

Frankly, with this much media attention I would be very surprised if the school doesn't jump through hoops.

Best wishes

Wil's Wheels said...

What a horrible experience for the child. I agree, give them time to comply before litigating.

I also understand the mom's anger and frustration.

Kysha said...

Oh, this is awful! I can't imagine how humiliated this child was.

painted maypole said...

i wonder if the "intent to sue" thing is sort of giving them time to right the wrong, but with a little added pressure? I dunno how these things work... just a thought...

Laski said...

I'm eager to see how this situation plays out. Hopefully the school will do the right thing and maybe even set a good example in the long run . . .