Former Torrington, Connecticut Middle School Principal Valerie Bruneau sued the Board of Education and Superintendent alleging that the district discriminated against and violated the rights of special education students during her tenure, including by not providing required paraprofessionals, then illegally fired her as retaliation for reporting the issue.
The school was supposed to provide 25 paraprofessionals, but only provided 22 in violation of the students IEPs (Individual Education Plans.
“Despite her continuous reporting to (the School Board and Superintendent) — regarding the District’s mismanagement, illegal practices, and its failure to provide special education services to disabled students — nothing changed,” said attorneys representing Bruneau in the suit.
The parents of a special education student began to keep their child out of school Sept. 18, as a reaction to the district not providing a paraprofessional and, after Lawrence reportedly declined to attend a legally-required meeting with the parents, informed the district of their plans to hire an attorney, according to the complaint.
In the complaint, Bruneau also alleges that special education students in co-taught classes did not have required paraprofessional support and that certain classes in the Learning Resource Center, which separate special education students from the regular education population, were not in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as they did not place the young people in the least-restrictive environment possible.
Bruneau alleged in her suit that part of the reason she was fired was the parents of a special education student had retained a lawyer and “someone had to be held accountable”.
“I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced this. It’s the law,” said Bruneau. “When a child has an IEP, that’s a legal binding document, so it’s not really a choice for implement it or not implement it… this was a fact of somebody did not provide the resources that they were mandated to provide.”
She said other concerns regarding the continuum of special education needs, resources and scheduling were being worked on, but necessary resources had not been provided. There were non-compliance issues at (the school), and further examination of the district’s program and its adherence to policies and procedures should occur, she said.
Her closing quote is telling:
“I hope that, from here going forward, the needs of not only the special education students, but all of the students, are met. I hope that parents find a voice and that they’re heard,” said Bruneau. “I absolutely wish them the best of luck.”
Is your voice being heard? Are you speaking out for you special needs kids?