Parent claims Magnolia Charter turned special needs child away

Published: Aug. 10, 2013 at 1:07 AM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - School begins Monday in Caddo Parish, but for one mother, her children's school plans have drastically changed. The Shreveport mom's son with special needs was accepted months ago to the new Magnolia School of Excellence, only to be rejected, according to her, because of his disability.

Ethal Crosby is always looking for ways to help her eight and ten year old sons academically. Especially since her rising fifth grader has special needs, "They are very smart children, so I'm always looking for something to give them a little more of a push and bring them out," said Crosby.

She was excited to hear about the new Magnolia Charter School opening up. It was advertised as a choice for any Caddo Parish Parent wanting a private or magnet school, but with no tuition and no test to get in. She submitted applications for both her kids earlier this year and got the acceptance email in April. "It [the email] says dear parents or guardians, congratulations Jason Crosby has been offered a seat for fifth grade at Magnolia School of Excellence," she said.

All summer she received emails from the school discussing the upcoming school year and their excitement for her kids enrollment.  But fast forward to a week before start of school, she says she got a very different message from the school.  "On Tuesday I got a call from a lady saying they couldn't accept Jason because his special needs were more than they could provide," she said, turning her excitement into disappointment.  She had already spent more than $100.00 on uniforms. But the hardest part was telling her son, "It was disappointing to him, because he was excited to go," she said.

A spokesman for Magnolia's parent company, Florida based  "Charter School U.S.A." offered this comment: "I can't speak about any child's specific situation, but I can tell you about our process. We never deny access to any child for any reason, what we do with a child with a special need, we work in collaboration with the district and with the parent, to provide the least restrictive environment where that child can succeed, whether that's at our school or by the local education agency," said media spokesman Colleen Reynolds.

"It was frustrating because I think they should have went over all his paperwork, way ahead of time," said Crosby and says she has returned the uniforms and pulled her other son out of Magnolia.

Principal Pam Barker spoke with KSLA News 12 over the phone and insists that the school has been working individually with parents of children with learning disabilities. According to Barker and charter board trustee Dr. Melva Williams, each parent was given a choice to attend the school or not and deny that any child was rejected because of their disability. Both women say any parent who says otherwise must be "disgruntled." Barker says the school does have special education teachers and currently have several special education kids enrolled in the school.

As for the last minute timing allegations, Barker tells KSLA News 12, they notify parents based on when their documentation is received from both their former schools and the parents. For those parents who received late notifications over the status of their child, Barker says they must have "just turned their paperwork in."

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities,  charter schools are subject to all federal laws and regulations related to students with disabilities. State law also requires all charter schools to comply with the Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA regulations require schools to make sure that all programs, services, and activities are accessible to people with disabilities.

If any parent feels their child is being discriminated against because of their disability, they can seek help from several organizations including Families helping Families, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, or file a complain with the Louisiana Department of Education.

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