UPDATE: Student Excluded From Field Trip Because Of Autism

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 24, 2010 --- 5:55 p.m.

NOTE: We received this note this evening, from Cathy Hasslinger, Quinn's mother.

I met with the Oregon School Superintendent, Director of Special Education, School Principal, and School District Parent Liaison today. No attorneys were present and no lawsuits were threatened by anyone. I was hoping for some recognition that a mistake had been made and some plan to move forward. That is not what happened.

The District provided me with a report of an investigation that was completed by the District Special Ed Director.

Finding #1 relates to another recent field trip where we weren’t notified there was a trip. The report said,

“the first field trip is indicative of an oversight by school staff in not alerting the parents and student of the impending field trip. This was an oversight, however, and not done out of malice. . . “

Finding #2 On the Upham Woods trip was that the decision was sound and,

“based on current and previous behavioral concerns, safety and participation concerns and likelihood of successful participation of the student.”

We weren’t satisfied with this answer since we offered to have a parent attend to look after Quinn (his dad) and we offered to attend for just a short time. We are confident that our son can be successful at Upham Woods and hope that he will have an opportunity to go this summer with Dane County 4H.

I agree wholeheartedly that no one in the Oregon School District intended any harm, but the results of these decisions or oversights are that a student is not getting access to educational opportunities that he has a right to. In addition, the school failed to provide a substitute teacher for our son on Monday. After visiting the school and speaking to the principal and discovering that no one was assigned to cover our child , I contacted the district office and at 1:00 PM they assigned a teacher to supervise my son’s day.

We will continue to advocate for our son’s education and hope that sharing our story will bring about discussion of some of the challenges facing families and schools in working together to create effective programming. We are discouraged tonight, but maybe tomorrow will be a brighter day.


Posted Tuesday, February 23, 2010--10:20 p.m.

Cathy Hasslinger says she tried everything to make sure her son would be included in his class' field trip.

Cathy offered to go along with him...but claims she was told no.

She says she told the school he didn't even have to stay over night...still she claims she was told no.

Cathy even offered to reduce his role to that of spectator...still she claims the answer was no.

Cathy was worried when she signed her 13-year-old son Quinn up for karate.

But it's six-months into the class and she's already noticed a change in him--he's more disciplined and focused.

Cathy says, " He loves coming. It's really been wonderful for him."

Quinn has Asperger's, a form of Autism. Cathy says people with the disability struggle in the classroom, with social relationships and can have a tough time dealing with certain sights and sounds.

But, she doesn't believe that gave officials at Quinn's school in Oregon the right to exclude him from a recent overnight field trip to Upham Woods in the Dells.

"Something just went wrong. That this should not have happened," Cathy says.

Not only does she think it shouldn't have happened--but she thinks the school may have violated a state statue.

Jeff Spitzer-Resnick is an attorney with Disability Rights Wisconsin.

He says district should have accommodated Quinn.

"Both federal and state law requires an interactive process and for the school district to provide reasonable accommodations so that kids with disabilities can participate in the same activities as their non-disabled peers."

We spoke to the district's Superintendent, at this point they won't comment.

" We can't comment on that because it involves a student. And if it involves a student that's a minor and we're just not going to comment on that."

Cathy told us she has a meeting with the superintendent Wednesday.

As for the school district, she says she still believes in it and overall likes it.

She just feels it needs a little help.