Father of special needs teenager suing Boulder Valley schools over son’s education

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — There are few things in life Jon Caldara cares about more than his son Chance. With an unprecedented school year, he’s worried about the quality of his son’s education, due to his special needs.

“He can’t read, can’t write. He’s verbally very limited,” Caldara said. “It might work for many kids. It will not, does not, can not work for kids like Chance.”

Chance is 16 and has Down syndrome. Caldara says the end of the last school year was brutal for his son, and is seeing little, if any, progress a month into this school year.

“He learns by doing, by touching, by being directed, by being moved here, by being moved there. By interacting with his peers,” Caldara said.

Caldara plans on suing the school district. His attorney, Igor Raykin, has filed a due process complaint and request for mediation with the Colorado Department of Education.

The grounds for the lawsuit: a virtual learning environment is a violation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (or IDEA), which makes available free appropriate public education to eligible children with special needs.

“He’s not learning the hands-on skills,” Caldara said. “To be able to use a knife, he’s not learning the therapies to be able to speak better to be able to understand him.”

His claim is asking the district to provide funding for in-person tutoring and services so he doesn’t fall behind, if the district can’t provide five days of in-person learning per week.

“We’re still paying taxes. We’re still putting into the system, but the system is giving nothing of value to my son,” Caldara said.

A spokesperson for the Boulder Valley School District shared the following statement with the Problem Solvers:

The Boulder Valley School District has been working exceptionally hard to serve all of its 31,000 students, including those with special needs, during this crisis situation. 

Since March, all BVSD students have been in Phase 1 – Home Learning. We understand for many families this has been extremely challenging. BVSD has outlined its plans, including for students with disabilities, in its Back Together BVSD reintroduction plan.

As BVSD announced September 8, BVSD is in the process of returning students to in-person learning. BVSD’s Phase 2+ prioritizes the return to in-person learning for our most impacted students, including those in our intensive special education programs.

BVSD remains dedicated to providing students with special needs with a free appropriate public education as part of its mission to create challenging, meaningful and engaging learning opportunities so that all children thrive and are prepared for successful, civically engaged lives.

Boulder Valley School District

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