As part of their work in the Youth and Education Law Project (“YELP”) last quarter, Samantha Lefland ’15 and Kip Hustace ’15 represented 10-year-old E.V. in a combined special education and expulsion matter.
Prior to the clinic’s involvement, E.V.’s school district had a long history of ignoring his escalating behavioral and mental health needs at school, although E.V. was in special education and legally entitled to receive such care and support. As a result, E.V. had repeatedly engaged in impulsive and aggressive behaviors, including kicking classroom aides, throwing chairs, and eloping from school grounds, demonstrating over and over that he could be a danger to himself and others.
Then last fall, while unsupervised at school, E.V. found a knife that was left lying out by staff and carried the knife down a school hallway. E.V. was tackled by adults and fell to the floor, hitting his head. The police were called and E.V. was admitted to the hospital for his second involuntary psychiatric hold incident this school year.
E.V.’s mental health professionals reported that they believed he had disassociated during the incident and needed additional help at school. Instead of responding lawfully by providing an appropriate school placement with necessary therapies, behavioral supports, and supervision, the school district chose to try to expel E.V.
E.V.’s mother soon called YELP seeking legal assistance and Kip and Samantha began work. They learned, after a thorough investigation, that the district had been on notice of E.V.’s needs for a long time and had failed to act appropriately. Kip and Samantha were able to use this knowledge and the corresponding risk of litigation to negotiate a very favorable outcome for their client. As a result, E.V. was recently placed in a therapeutic day treatment class with constant supervision and his expulsion has been suspended and may be expunged from his record in the future.