- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A candidate for the St. Mary’s County Board of Education and her husband have a pending complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against St. Mary’s public school employees concerning the handling of school placement for their son, who has autism.
Rita Weaver and Greg Weaver of Dameron filed the complaint last year, which outlines several incidents that allege employees violated their son’s constitutional rights, Rita Weaver said this week when asked about the complaint.
Rita Weaver is running for the school board this year against Randy Darnowsky and Alonzo Gaskin to represent District 1, which is currently represented by Sal Raspa. Raspa announced earlier this year he would not seek another term. Weaver filed for office in late February.
Weaver, who said she could not discuss the details of the complaint while it is under investigation, said it involved incidents related to school employees while trying to find the proper educational placement for her middle school-aged son.
Michael Martirano, superintendent of the St. Mary’s public schools, said he is aware of the complaint filed by the Weavers and that school staff are working with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights during the investigation. He said that while the complaint is a matter of public record, he did not want to comment on any details of what is a legal matter.
Weaver’s son was switched from one middle school to another January 2013, where he was placed in a special classroom for students with autism, Weaver said. Several incidents arose at the new school, she said, and discussions began over placing the boy in a different school.
“The things that led up to it is why I filed the complaints,” she said.
School personnel at one point last spring said they wanted to place her son in The Harbour School in Annapolis, which specializes in working with students who have autism, especially high-functioning autism, Weaver said.
She visited the school and determined a bus ride more than two hours long each way was not acceptable.
“As parents, we advocated for keeping him here in the county,” Weaver said.
Eventually, the school system provided home-hospital teachers to instruct Weaver’s son at their home through the end of his seventh-grade year and the following summer.
Her son this school year has attended a local public middle school and things are going well, Weaver said.
But, the process to get to this point was long and arduous, she said, leading to disputes with what she called adversarial school employees.
Weaver said she has run into other issues while dealing with her son’s public education that are not included in the complaint. She called a number last year provided for the school board members and requested that an elected board member call her to discuss the issues, Weaver said. Instead, a staff member from the schools’ special education department called her back.
“They’re blocking everything,” Weaver said.