ODE Seeks Dismissal Of Lawsuit In Support Of Students With Disabilities

Jul 10, 2019

A lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Education alleges the state is failing students with disabilities by not providing families with adequate resources. 

Lacey Leppo’s son Brogan has attended school in the Bethel School District since he was in the 1st grade, but it wasn’t until he entered 5th grade that his school shortened his school days. He only went to school for 1 hour a day last year.

“I ended up quitting my job, it financially impacted my family, it impacted my other 2 students greatly. We thought we were going to have to put him in a residential home and give him up," Leppo said.

:Lacey Leppo holds a school photo of her son Brogan who has complex disabilities. She says getting him the the support he needed from his school district was frustrating and difficult.
Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News

Brogan has both learning and behavioral disabilities, and Leppo said his self-worth tanked. After a second placement in a new school, though, Brogan improved both academically and socially.

“He’s happy, he’s coming home and trying to do the things he’s learning as for before he wouldn’t event attempt or he would melt down and say ‘I’m just stupid,’” Leppo said.

To get there though, Leppo said she had to bring in outside support from Child Protective Services, and a lawyer to convince the district her son needed help.

Leppo isn’t a plaintiff in the case against ODE, but prosecutors say families shouldn’t have to struggle this much.

"The overall goal is for the state to support school districts in meeting the needs of these students. To make sure every student, as they're entitled to, gets a chance to learn and isn't excluded just because they have disabilites," said National Center for Youth Law attorney Alice Abrokwa after a hearing in Eugene Wednesday, where ODE called for the case to be dissmissed.

Federal Judge Ann Aiken has not given her opinion yet, however, at the close of the hearing she suggested the department seek a settlement. ODE's Communcations Director Mark Siegel declined to comment.