Share This Page

Former Pittsburgh Public Schools student sues district, says she was not provided adequate education

| Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 11:58 p.m.

An Allderdice High School student and her parents claim in a federal lawsuit that she couldn't graduate with classmates in 2010 because Pittsburgh school officials didn't provide her with adequate home schooling while she was ill.

The teen, identified as K.K., took advanced classes and participated in science and math competitions in 2009, until a stomach virus caused a chronic medical condition that left her homebound the rest of her junior year.

During that time, the district provided 2.5 hours of instruction weekly from an instructor who wasn't certified to teach the classes she took, the suit claims. Her parents say the district refused their request for more instruction time and better-qualified teachers.

Their lawsuit challenges a state hearing officer's Aug. 7 ruling in favor of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Attorney Jeffrey Ruder, who represents the family, declined comment.

Schools spokeswoman Ebony Pugh declined comment except to verify that a hearing officer ruled in the district's favor.

Pamela Berger, a Pittsburgh attorney who specializes in education disability discrimination cases, said she isn't familiar with the case but finds it “very odd” the district would limit instruction to 2.5 hours per week.

“The minimum is five hours a week, which is completely inadequate,” she said.

The family is suing under a section of the Rehabilitation Act, which bans agencies that get federal money from discriminating against disabled students.

The district drew up an inadequate plan to cover K.K.'s education and did not follow a second plan designed to allow her to catch up with classmates when she returned to school, the family claims. The lawsuit seeks to recover the cost of tutoring, legal costs and experts' fees.

School board member Regina Holley, a retired Pittsburgh school principal, said she's not familiar with the case but thought that homebound students got more schooling.

“I was under the impression that they had more than 2.5 hours,” Holley said. She said the district should consider providing homebound students with online courses.

Two other board members declined comment and others couldn't be reached.

The family claims the district has a fixed practice of providing 2.5 hours per week, regardless of a student's needs. Such a blanket policy would violate federal law, said Shari Mamas, a lawyer in the Pittsburgh office of the nonprofit Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, who wasn't familiar with the case.

The district could be in legal jeopardy if it failed to follow a plan, which becomes a binding contract, she said.

“If it was in her plan, and it wasn't being followed by her teachers, then it would be a legal violation,” Mamas said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.