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Parent accuses Norman Public Schools of neglecting child with disabilities

nps meeting 09/13

A Norman community member expresses concerns regarding Oklahoma House Bill 1775 on Sept. 13. 

Editor’s note: OU Daily omitted the name of the student out of respect for privacy.

A Norman parent filed a petition, a formal request for a court order, against Norman Public Schools, alleging her child suffered physical and emotional abuse in January after being placed into the wrong classroom.

In the Nov. 4 petition, Adrianne Johnson, the parent of an 11-year-old Alcott Middle School student, wrote her son was in “physical pain and emotional distress” after being put in a “loud, unsupervised room of older students.”

Johnson is seeking an award for damages in excess of $75,000 for the alleged abuse to her son.

According to the petition, the boy has been diagnosed with autism, ADHD and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. He also has heart problems and cognitive problems causing him to function as a 7- or 8-year-old and is blind in his left eye.

Johnson’s son is considered a child with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and was placed in an Individualized Education Program, the petition states. However, NPS allegedly placed him in a classroom with 14- and 15-year-old students, which violated his Individualized Education Program and resulted in bullying, according to the petition.

“NPS had a legal duty to take such steps as a reasonably prudent person would take to protect (him) from that risk,” the petition stated. “NPS also had a legal duty to provide an educational environment to (him) safe from bullying and protect him from the same.”

The petition also alleges the boy, whose disabilities made him prone to sensory discomfort, was called a racial slur in front of an Alcott teacher after he had an outburst due to the noisy environment.

In a statement from Kymberli J.M. Heckenkemper, Johnson's attorney, she wrote the alleged verbal and physical abuse the boy was subjected to would not have occurred if it wasn't for the "negligence" of Alcott Middle School employees and the NPS district. 

"NPS' failure to protect (the boy), an especially vulnerable 11-year-old boy, is absolutely unacceptable," Heckenkemper wrote. "Ms. Johnson, a devoted mother and strong advocate for her little boy, filed a lawsuit to hold NPS accountable for this grave wrong and the harm it caused (the boy) to suffer."

In an email to OU Daily, Wes Moody, executive director of communications for Norman Public Schools wrote due to the ongoing litigation and students privacy, NPS cannot comment on the situation.

This article was updated Nov. 22 at 2:27 p.m. to include statements from Heckenkemper and Moody.

Junior news reporter

Kaly Phan is a journalism junior and junior news reporter at the Daily. She started in the fall of 2021 and has previously served as a news reporter. She is originally from Trophy Club, Texas.

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