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Published: Tuesday, 11/13/2007

State upholds TPS in dispute

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Ohio Department of Education's Office for Exceptional Children ruled last week in favor of Toledo Public Schools over a West Toledo couple who sued the district last year regarding the care of their disabled daughter.

Scott and Joanne Horen filed a due-process complaint - just one of several claims made over 17 months of litigation - alleging the district violated federal and state laws relating to the education of their daughter, DeLaney Horen.

The case has cost taxpayers more than $100,000 in legal expenses for the school system.

At issue in the most recent ruling is "whether the district complied with the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act when the district filed a due-process complaint and a request for a due-process hearing against the parents," the ruling states.

The Horens, in their complaint to the state, said the district was aware that the hearing officer appointed to conduct the due-process hearing "could not be impartial because he is involved in representing the district in a pending civil action between the parents and the district," the ruling said.

They said the district did not contact them regarding who was selected as hearing officer. The family couldn't be reached for comment last night.

The ruling said the evidence did not support the parent's allegations.

Earlier this month, school board members Jack Ford and Robert Torres called on the administration to settle the lawsuit.

DeLaney, 9, suffers from a rare disability called Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome. It leaves her unable to walk or speak and often causes her to have severe seizures.

Her parents first sued the school system, the city of Toledo, and the former Medical University of Ohio on May 26, 2006. They alleged that their daughter was not receiving the care and education to which she's entitled.

The 11-page lawsuit filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court claims the district would not serve DeLaney breakfast beginning at 8:30 a.m., starting on May 10, 2006, and instead claims the school said she was "not entitled to enter school before 8:45 a.m."

The alleged incident occurred at Educare, a school in South Toledo for children with medical needs.

Mr. Horen last month told The Blade that the dispute is much deeper than just a disagreement over 15 minutes.

Ms. Horen, who is a lawyer, at the same time said, "At this point, I think DeLaney needs to stay home and TPS has to provide the services for that because they don't have a place to put her."

They have kept their daughter home since the case began.

Three days before they filed their lawsuit, Mrs. Horen was charged with child endangering.

According to an affidavit filed in Toledo Municipal Court, she left DeLaney "sitting on the floor of a common hallway. This act was done 20 minutes before the opening of school."

Mr. Foley and his senior staff have declined to talk specifically about the Horens' case other than to say that he did not know what it would take to settle the case because it has never been made clear.

Mr. Horen said he and his wife filed their civil action against TPS, some of its employees, and a resource officer because DeLaney "was kept behind a locked classroom door with the window covered and we were not allowed access without first providing

24-hour notice because we were retaliated against by TPS when we sought to include DeLaney in the morning breakfast program at school."

The city is included in the lawsuit because Toledo police officers contracted with the school system for security.

The former Medical University of Ohio, which is now part of the University of Toledo, is a defendant because it owns the Educare facility in South Toledo at the former Heatherdowns Elementary School.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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