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When Special-Needs Students Act Out


Robert Soncini, parent

Greg Ivie, Children's Attorneys Project, Lead Attorney, Special Education Unit, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada

Dr. Michael George, Director, Centennial School at Lehigh University

BY MARIE ANDRUSEWICZ -- Educators advocate for including special needs students as much as possible into regular classrooms -- it helps them academically and in their social development.

But a recent incident at Conners Elementary School shows that sometimes this mainstreaming has unfortunate consequences. In this case, one family says their daughter was punched and threatened with scissors by a special-needs classmate.

Robert Soncini first learned his daughter was experiencing these issues when he and his then wife were called in for a meeting with the teacher.

“They had said that that day she was punched in the stomach by this child and after talking with the teacher a little more we found out this was going on continuously in the classroom to the point that it was out-of-control excessive,” says Soncini.

According to Soncini, the teacher said the school was doing everything they could and asked for patience. She said she couldn’t tell the parents specifically what course of action they were taking in working to resolve the issue, since she was limited by privacy laws including the Family Education Rights and Privacy Actand the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Soncini says they then took their concerns to the principal and assistant principal. When that didn’t get results they went to the academic manager. Soncini eventually told his story at a public meeting attended by the superintendent.

When all entreaties to the school were unsuccessful, the parents sought a restraining order against the 8-year-old special needs student.

Soncini says he’s “heartbroken” about what his daughter had to experience.

“She loves going to school,” he says, “So for her to say I don’t want to go to school, I don’t want to learn – it’s devastating.”

After an end-of-year meeting with the associate superintendent in which he was told that the special-needs student “would not be a problem next year,” Soncini has dissolved the restraining order.

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