Ryan Daniels and his family are suing Roseburg Public Schools for $9 million, claiming the school violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by putting Daniels in a closet without justification or documentation.
Daniels is an 18-year-old student with autism, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and communication disorders, according to the lawsuit. He was registered at Roseburg High School in a special education class but was removed in October 2015 after striking his teacher with a chair, according to court documents.
Daniels’ individualized education plan, known as an IEP, allowed for a “break room,” but did not allow use of force to put him in such a space or specify how much time he could spend there. A few times a week, the teacher or aide would forcibly seize and seclude Daniels in a 5-by-15 foot room until he calmed down, according to court documents.
Daniels was put in the room for disciplinary reasons and for the convenience of school personnel, according to court documents, and was left in the empty storage closet for varying periods of time ranging from 15 minutes to several hours. The teacher in question, Melanie Adams, has since left her position at the school.
According to the court documents, the school district did not provide any restraint or seclusion logs to the family. Daniels has since moved to Bridgeway, a private school in Eugene which specializes in working with individuals with autism. The school costs approximately $30,000 per year.
“(Daniels’) teachers and parents express that he is making tremendous progress since he was removed from RHS, but has much to learn and overcome due to the trauma and educational harms he suffered while at RHS,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawyer for the family, Melissa Wischerath, said the case is still in the early discovery stage.
On Thursday, Interim Superintendent Robert Freeman said he could not comment on the lawsuit because the case is still proceeding. On Friday morning, Freeman sent an email to The News-Review denying the allegations.
"Safety of all students remain the number one priority at Roseburg Public Schools. Staff work hard to ensure policies and procedures are practiced so students are safe. Roseburg Public Schools vehemently denies the claims in the article," he wrote.
Director of Student Services Rick Burton was not available Thursday afternoon to talk about services for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The case was filed first with an administrative law judge, and when the family received the order they filed their tort claim at the end of May. A settlement conference was scheduled for Sept. 21 in Eugene, but was vacated, leaving the case open for further action. The family is claiming the district denied their son “meaningful access to public education.”
The claim initially asked for $3 million, but persons with disabilities fall under the definition of vulnerable persons which allows plaintiffs to triple their claim.