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Parents want monitoring device for autistic son; district balks

Updated April 9, 2019 - 9:08 pm

Parents of a special education student are battling the Clark County School District for the right to equip their son with a monitoring device to track his whereabouts and allow them to eavesdrop on classroom activities.

Joshua and Britten Wahrer moved their 6-year-old from Harmon Elementary to Ferron Elementary this school year following the arrest in June 2018 of teacher Melody Carter, who was accused of hitting their non-verbal autistic son with a stick.

The felony abuse charge that Carter faced was later reduced to a misdemeanor and ultimately dismissed.

But now the Wahrers are filing a due process complaint under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act over proper training for teachers and their desire to equip their son with the monitoring device.

The device is needed because the boy has wandered away from staff at Ferron Elementary without the staff’s knowledge, Joshua Wahrer said Tuesday during a hearing on the complaint.

“This school year there was an incident the first week of school where I had to go into the school and find him because he (wandered) out of the classroom and they didn’t know where he was at,” he said. “So it’s a constant worry right now of ‘Where’s our child at? Is he safe?’”

Under federal law, families of special education students may file a due process complaint and are entitled to an independent hearing to resolve matters related to their child’s education. The officer hearing the Wahrers’ complaint will issue a decision on the matter sometime after a two-day hearing on the complaint concludes on Wednesday.

The family is also seeking compensatory education time — additional one-on-one tutoring to make up for the time their son has lost in the classroom — and more training for teachers on interventions for special education students.

The AngelSense device the Wahrers hope to use on their son would notify them if he ventures outside a boundary and also record audio of what’s occurring near him.

“Historically, they have had to rely upon the district to tell them, ‘Hey, he fell down,’ or ‘Hey, he (ran off),’ or ‘Hey, he was beaten by his teacher,’ and the district didn’t — and it still isn’t,” said Gregg Hubley, the family’s attorney. “Without this, the parents aren’t going to be able to be involved in his education and they’re not going to be able to make sure that he gets the education that the law requires Nevada to give him.”

The family did not seek compensation following Carter’s arrest and are willing to pay for the AngelSense device themselves, according to their attorney.

The district denied the request for the audio recording feature, according to a news release from the plaintiffs.

The district declined to explain its stance on Tuesday, saying it is unable to comment on pending litigation.

A bill that would require cameras in special education classrooms is once again before the Legislature after failing to pass in the 2017 legislative session.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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