TUSD Whistleblower: Mother comes forward to shed light on the case

TUSD Whistleblower: Mother comes forward to shed light on the case

CREATED Aug. 15, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- It's a civil rights complaint the Tucson Unified School District did not tell you about. 14 families say TUSD abused or neglected their special needs children. And a whistleblower who tried to do something about it -- lost her job. For the first time -- one of those 14 families speaks out.

Kathy Richmond feels hopeless. She says TUSD failed her special needs son, who suffers from schizophrenia. "He was in special ed for a few years and in a special ed classroom. He was dealing with the anxiety issues," she said.

Richmond shows us a huge pile of documentation from the district on its handling of her son's case. But she claims the district did little -- that special needs staff at Sahuaro High School refused to address her son's needs and constantly called her to pick up him up from school. "He wasn't doing anything wrong. He wasn't a danger to himself or anyone else. He just needed a few minutes out of the classroom," said Richmond.

She says the district moved her son to another school. "Get rid of the problem. Put him in Palo Verde in a self contained classroom." But she said that didn't work. In fact, the problem reached a critical stage. "Last year a student threatened to kill him," she said.

So Richmond pulled her son out of the school -- fearing for his safety. Her son's case is one of 14 separate allegations of abuse and neglect against special needs kids -- reported to the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

In February of 2011, the OCR reached an agreement with TUSD to resolve those 14 cases. KGUN9 reporter Valerie Cavazos asked Richmond: "Have they resolved this issue with you?"
She answered: "They haven't offered me anything."

After reviewing some of the OCR records, Board member Dr. Mark Stegeman says the district must do more -- for moral, ethical as well as  financial obligations. "We made specific agreements concerning the treatment of 14 students .. named ... and it's important that we respect those agreements."

Richmond said her 17 year old son is not in school. The DOE's Office of Civil Rights is supposed to be monitoring an agreement that TUSD signed off on a year and a half ago. But Richmond said -- in her case -- nothing has been resolved.