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Mother takes legal action after son gets expelled

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 6:47 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The mother of a former Bay District Schools student is speaking out after making the decision to take legal action against the district in November.

Rebecca Newell says her son does not have a perfect past. She told NewsChannel 7 that he had missed a lot of days of school and a low G.P.A.

In addition, Newell says that her son, in total, over the course of his time from kindergarten to his freshman year of high school, had 52 referrals. But she said that he does have behavioral problems and the school provided help throughout elementary school.

Newell said the help stopped once he improved and went to middle school.

“He continued to receive referrals for his behavior but was getting suspended instead of them identifying and evaluating a proper plan for him,” Newell said.

Newell said that she had asked multiple times for the school to do a behavioral analysis on her son so they could identify the problem and work on it.

“I was at a loss on how to manage his behavior at the school. If an analysis and treatment plan were provided, he wouldn’t have reached as many referrals that led to his expulsion,” Newell said.

Now Newell has taken legal action.

“We filed an administrative due process complaint for violations of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and what we call Child Find, which is the school district’s obligation to identify and evaluate students who potentially have disabilities,” Stephanie Langer, attorney for Rebecca Newell said.

In addition, Newell has begun the appeals process for her son’s expulsion.

“When the school board, expelled the student, a student has a right to appeal that expulsion,” Langer said. “So, we filed an appeal of the expulsion in the First District Court of Appeals.”

According to Newell, her son was expelled following a fight at Rutherford High School.

“My son was one of many that were expelled this year, he was involved in the incident that was labeled as a riot, in late September of last year,” Newell said.

Newell said that prior to the incident her son had notified the administration office of threats he had received on social media.

“My son went to the administration on three different occasions, related to threats of fighting being made towards him and his brother. When the incident occurred, he was protecting his brother that was being attacked by multiple young men at the school,” Newell said.

Newell’s oldest son had an expulsion hearing following the incident at the high school. She says her son spoke and asked the board for a second chance to go to the alternative school.

“Four out of the five board members agreed to change to alternative placement, but only the superintendent can change the recommendation. Although the superintendent wasn’t present at the hearing and he had to be called to be asked to change the recommendation,” Newell said. “When they called, he declined to change the recommendation without hesitation.”

Newell said her oldest son was expelled and is now attending private school. Her other son that was involved in the Rutherford incident is attending the district’s alternative school.

NewsChannel 7 reached out to Bay District Schools for comment. They sent the following statement:

“Absent a signed release form, we cannot comment on confidential student discipline situations. Our district is committed to following all state laws, procedures and policies when it comes to disciplinary infractions and consequences. Student safety is our number one responsibility. We know that our parents and guardians expect us to do all we can to ensure our schools are safe places for teaching and learning and we will continue to do that. As we have said before, 99 percent of our students follow the rules and behave appropriately at school. Unfortunately, the behavior of a few students is what draws the media’s attention and that’s a shame because those few students do not represent the vast majority of children in our community.”

Newell declined to sign the media release form.

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