Mom claims school system retaliated against her after speaking up for disabled child
WATSON- A Livingston Parish mother is speaking up after she claims the school system retaliated against her for speaking up for her daughter who has Down syndrome.
Peyton Kellett can't effectively communicate, which is why her mother said she will always be her voice.
"She has the biggest heart you've ever seen in your entire life," Peyton's mom Ashley Kellett said. "She hugs everybody. She's sweet, and she's precious."
Kellett said her daughter's IEP, or Individual Education Program clearly states that she needs certain provisions for her school work. One aspect of the IEP states, "Alter format of materials on page by type, highlight and spacing."
Kellett said her daughter has vision issues and can't see well if words are too small. She asked that her daughter's worksheets be enlarged.
"We agreed about blowing everything up," Kellett said. "I emailed three or four times after that because they were sending home the same classwork and homework."
Instead, Kellett said she was hit with a notice ordering her to appear in court as Live Oak Elementary referred her daughter to the FINS program.
FINS stands for Families in Need of Services. According to FINS website, it provides services for children who are identified as "status offenders." The website goes on to say the services are there to "deter youth from more serious offenses, including delinquent arrest and/or delinquent adjudication."
Kellett was floored that a request about enlarging her child's worksheets culminated with a referral to a juvenile delinquency program for her 6-year-old.
FINS recognized it was not a valid referral and told Kellett this happens often.
"I asked how many of these do you get," Kellett said. "She [FINS] said you would be shocked."
That shocking figure is being tracked by Act Now Louisiana, a grassroots organization familiar with this issue. Corhonda Corley said this is part of an intimidation tactic that is frequently used.
"The reason it's not alarming is because we are seeing this all across Louisiana," Corley said.
Corley said her organization has identified at least 700 students statewide with disabilities who were referred to FINS by their individual school districts.
"Their goal is to get the parent to withdraw the child," Corley said. "Once they withdraw the child, they homeschool the child and the system doesn't have to deal with the parent or child. But they continue to receive property taxes. It's a win-win for them but a lose situation for the parents."
Kellett said she just wants the proper education her child deserves. She said all of this mess could have been avoided and resolved if Live Oak Elementary just enlarged her daughter's schoolwork.
"I'm not going away," Kellett said. "I'm not going to shut up. I'm her voice."
We reached out to the Livingston Parish School System and the Louisiana Department of Education for a comment about this story and have not heard back.
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