Mother Wins Challenge to get Son into Summer School

October 12, 2017 07:52 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Another ruling to report in a case involving a local school district, a boy with special needs and what appears to be a missing word.

It’s a story that began in 2016:


"When it came to the end of the school year I thought my son would be attending ESY, which is the extended school year program because he had always qualified in previous years due to his disability," Anne Hoelz told us.

At the time, her son Kaiden was a 7-year-old... “Who has speech apraxia and motor apraxia, he's non-verbal and his hands don't work. When I questioned it I was told he had to qualify not only with disabilities, but also with academic regression, and since he did not have academic regression, he did not qualify."

“Essentially what the district provided our staff training materials that required students to enroll in a summer targeted services program to meet certain criteria," said Dr. Mike Funk, Superintendent of Albert Lea schools.

So Anne Hoelz researched school district policy, which is based on state and federal statute.

"And found indeed that a violation had occurred,” she told us. “They called it a typographical error, it was supposed to be an and/or situation, and they forgot a word.”

“The clerical error limited some of the procedures the team had when determining which students qualified for extended school year services,” Supt. Funk explained.

“So I filed a complaint in 2016 with the Department of Education," Hoelz said.

"The MDE conducted an investigation last fall of 2016  and it came out we had a clerical error in our training materials, which we never contested,” Dr. Funk said.

But earlier this year, the school district appealed the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

"We chose to appeal based on the procedure the Minnesota Department of Education used to conduct their interview," Supt. Dr. Funk explained.

The school district says MDE wanted to interview 7 teachers and it's school district policy that such proceedings be tape-recorded.

"As soon as we started the tape recorder, they refused to interview any other teachers and they came out with a statement that the district refused to participate in the process, which was an untrue statement,” Dr. Funk said.

"The court said the department's procedure was flawed, and the district did indeed try to participate in the process.”

“But it was inconsequential because they had more than enough evidence to support the violation,” Hoelz argued.

“In our mind, that was the core issue with the appeal of the Department of Education," Dr. Funk said.

The Albert Lea school district tells us qualified students were able to take part in ESY this summer, once the error was discovered.


Dan Conradt

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