Mother considers suing city schools

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 16, 2003

Carolyn Bates had hoped her issues with the Selma City School System would be resolved by now.

Instead, she finds herself back at square one and considering legal actions.

Carolyn and her Montgomery-based attorney are making plans to file a lawsuit against the school board for what she contends is its continuous denial of special education services for her youngest son.

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Joe Bates, a 7th grader who was enrolled at Selma Middle C.H.A.T. Academy, qualified for special education services in 1999 but was eventually removed from the program. Soon his grades began to drop and his mother filed a complaint with the school system’s special education coordinator.

Joe has been absent from school approximately 60 days due to numerous illnesses and his inability to concentrate.

His documented problems include learning disabilities, severe asthma, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and clinical depression.

The Bates family has sat through numerous due process hearings and meetings in an effort to get Joe the help they feel he needs.

When Joe was once again denied special education services during a March 20 hearing, Bates decided it was time to use her last resort.

Bates claims the due process hearings were biased against her and the legal proceedings unfair.

She said a large portion of the evidence against the school system was ignored during the hearings.

She also points to a written decision for the March 20 hearing in which the credibility and competency of an independent evaluator was called into question.

Bates said ordinary parents would find it impossible to win a case like hers. She said the fight with the school board has forced her to wear many hats.

Bates said her ordeal has made her feel helpless and almost driven her to the point of nervous breakdown.

Until a ruling from the lawsuit is forthcoming, Bates said she is taking comfort in her work with the Selma Disabilities Advocacy Program.

Bates said she has no plans to stop her fight with the school board until she gets her son the special education services he needs.