Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Media Advisory: Lawsuit Filed Against Parents of Special-Needs Students Reaches Court Today

WHO: State Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City)

WHAT: Court hearing of lawsuit filed against parents of special-needs students who applied for scholarships under the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act.

WHERE: State Rep. Jason Nelson, author of the scholarship law, will be available for comment upon request throughout the day.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 27

THE STORY AT A GLANCE: Court proceedings begin Tuesday on school districts’ lawsuit targeting parents who received scholarships under the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act. The law provides scholarships to special-needs students, such as those with Down syndrome or Autism.

State Rep. Jason Nelson, the law’s author, will be available for comment throughout the day and can be reached at (405) 557-7335 or at Jason.nelson@okhouse.gov.

The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act allows students with a disability on an individualized education program (IEP) to receive state-funded scholarships to attend private school. The scholarships are funded with money already designated for the child’s education.

In response, the Jenks and Union school districts sued some of the parents of children with special needs who obtained the scholarships provided by the law.

“It is indefensible for school districts to sue parents for being too involved in the education of their own children,” Nelson said. “This law sets the standard for local control. Parents make the choices about their child's education. It doesn't get any more local control than that.”

Although both districts could have challenged the scholarship law in court before it went into effect more than a year ago, they didn’t.

The schools’ boards eventually voted to sue the state attorney general to challenge the law, but never did.
Instead, they sued parents.

“Rather than work to provide quality educational opportunities for each child, Jenks and Union are attempting to ‘make an example’ of families who already face significant challenges,” Nelson said. “This lawsuit is the worst kind of abuse of the judicial system.

“Oklahoma is such a populist state that it is inconceivable that our state Constitution would prefer that government schools make the ultimate decision as to what is best for Oklahoma’s children rather than their parents – yet that is what these school boards and their superintendents apparently believe. They have chosen to sue parents of students with special needs because those parents used the scholarship to provide a better future for their child.

“Every scholarship that has been issued represents a savings to that school district, a satisfied parent and a student who is now on a pathway to success,” Nelson continued. “Some parents have used the scholarship and later realized that the public school district provided the best education and environment for their child. But even more parents have taken the scholarship and witnessed what they call a ‘life-changing’ transformation in their child once he or she was able to enroll in a different school. That is why we passed this law.”

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