Officials with California’s board of education have barred two campuses of the Bright Futures Academy, a school serving special-needs children, from taking new students.
Officially, the decision is related to the school’s inability to meet its contractual obligations and a failure to follow at least one student’s individualized education plan (IEP).
There is speculation, however, that the action by the school board may be related to the death of an autistic student who died in an altercation with a bus driver on the way home back in December.
The 18-year-old student had grown agitated and was in an altercation with another student. In response, the bus driver and an aide restrained the teenager by holding him in a position that blocked his ability to breathe — cutting off his oxygen supply for as long as 12 minutes — ultimately killing him.
While the local district attorney declined to press charges for manslaughter against the bus driver and the aide, the teenager’s family does intend to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the school for having inadequate staffing and failing to provide what staff there is with the proper training to deal with those sort of predictable incidents.
That death was hardly the only problem the school had with violence among students and staff, however. State officials declared the school actually harmful to students with special needs — an allegation that seems to be borne out by the number of criminal complaints the local police department has handled at the school.
Police have dealt with incidents ranging from assaults, inappropriate contact between a student and teacher, sexual battery and thefts to gang activity and riots. In a previous incident of neglect, a 13-year-old student with a seizure disorder and autism was seriously injured when he was left unattended.
Issues like this show how easy it is for a charter school to present itself as a haven for those with special needs — without actually making sure that the staff is adequately trained. That kind of negligence often leads to tragic results before anybody is aware of the problem.