East Wake Academy parent files complaint with U.S. Department of Education

amoody@newsobserver.comMay 30, 2014 

— An East Wake Academy parent has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging the school has not properly served the special learning needs of his fifth-grade son.

Daniel Nourie has also submitted a formal grievance to the school’s board of directors stating school staff did not follow doctor’s orders to administer an inhaler on two days in December to his first-grade son who has asthma. Since no disciplinary action was taken against the teachers, he claims no one was held accountable for a miscue he says put his son’s life in jeopardy.

Nourie submitted his complaint to OCR on May 1, charging that the charter school was not meeting four of the five areas of needs listed on a special learning plan for his older son.

A spokesperson for the DOE declined to provide details on the status of Nourie’s complaint.

“As a policy, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights does not confirm the receipt of complaints,” a spokesperson said. “If after evaluation the department opens an investigation into a complaint, we will inform the institution, the complainant and the public as appropriate.”

In a interview unrelated to Nourie’s complaints, K-4 Academy principal and Exceptional Children’s director Lee Bryan said learning plans generally specify what the school is going to do to meet a student’s learning needs. He said items listed on such forms should be carried out in full.

Bypassing the school

The learning plan for Nourie’s son, which mostly calls for modified assignments and for the student to receive extra time to complete projects and tests, was implemented Oct. 29. Nourie says it was carried out for a while, but that it did not last. He listed April 23 in the OCR complaint as the date the last discrimination occurred.

East Wake Academy Superintendent Stephen Gay declined to comment directly about a specific student, referencing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

But in response to Nourie’s complaint about the learning plan, Gay said the school exists to provide quality education for all students. He said that calls for administrators, families, students and teachers working together.

“If anybody does have an issue, we want to have an open dialogue and try to solve it,” Gay said. “In this case, it’s unfortunate the parent chose other methods to try and solve it. We’d be glad to sit down with any parent to solve an issue.”

Nourie said he went straight to OCR with the complaint because he didn’t get the results he desired in other recent experiences working with the EWA board.

“We have taken many issues to the board … every complaint I have sent to the board has been denied due to (board chairman Mike) Lester siding with the school,” Nourie wrote in his complaint to OCR.

Medical mix-up

Nourie claims failure by staff members to treat his younger son led to the first-grader having a severe asthma attack at school on Dec. 12. He says upon examination, doctors informed him the school should have called 911 and that his son could have died.

He alleged negligence on the parts of first grade teacher Alexandria Barbour, nurse Samantha Dove and Gay in a formal grievance submitted to the school board on Dec. 16, 2013.

“Instead of the nurse and teacher treating him with the doctors orders they state they ‘asked if he was okay,’ which he said yes (because he is 6 and doesn’t know what is going on, he just thought it was a cough),” the letter stated. “... they are putting children at risk and furthermore creating huge legal liabilities to your school.”

Nourie also complained that teachers again failed to treat his son when he returned to school Dec. 16. Unlike the first instance, Nourie said he was aware his son’s asthma was acting up prior to taking him to school that day. He said he emailed the teacher to inform her of his son’s condition, but that his son still was not treated.

State law says it is within the scope of a teacher’s responsibility to administer medication prescribed by a doctor with written request by parents, but that no employee is to be required to administer drugs or medication. School officials say, however, an approved medical treatment plan should also be followed in full.

School board closes case

Lester, the school’s board chairman, responded to Nourie’s December grievance, stating in an email Feb. 5 that the board had looked into his complaint, presented findings at meetings on Jan. 14 and Feb. 4, and completed its evaluation. Lester noted that the school asked permission to speak to Nourie’s son’s medical professionals and that Nourie had denied that request.

Board findings listed in Lester’s reply were that a miscommunication and/or misunderstanding regarding (the first grader’s) care occurred while he was under the supervision of EWA staff; that, upon notice, EWA staff made adjustments to improve monitoring and ensure full implementation of treatment/dosages for (the student); and that no credible evidence was revealed to warrant disciplinary action against any staff member.

Nourie shared both of his frustrations with state schools superintendent June Atkinson in an email May 1. Atkinson replied in an email on May 5 that the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools would investigate such issues. No formal complaint has been filed with that office at this time.

Nourie contends changes are needed on the EWA school board in order for changes to be realized at the staff level.

“All I want is for my (son’s learning) plan to be followed but there is no discipline for teachers not following it because all changes must go through the board,” Nourie said in his complaint to OCR.

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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