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Bullied Autistic Girl's Private Tuition Must be Paid by City, Court Rules

By Aidan Gardiner | January 21, 2016 3:55pm

MANHATTAN — After an 8-year court battle, an appeals court ruled the city has to pay private tuition fees for an autistic girl whose teachers at an Upper East Side public school ignored her parents' pleas for help as her classmates bullied her for nearly a year, a court ruled Wednesday.

The teachers and even the principal at the P.S. 6 Lillie D. Blake School at 45 E. 81st St., near Madison Avenue refused to talk to the then-third grader's parents about the ongoing "severe bullying" by other students that included pinchings that left bruises, stomping on toes and being called "ugly," "stupid" and "fat," the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled.

Teachers even reprimanded the girl for reacting to the taunts, judges found.

The decision stems from the student's 2007 to 2008 academic year when the the girl spent her day in a mixed classroom with both general and special education students, records show.

The girl came home in tears nearly every day and feared going to school, according to the court's decision. She began to take dolls to the classroom with her as support.

Once, some classmates refused to touch a pencil that the student had used, which prompted a teacher to label that pencil with the student's name which made the problem worse, documents show.

Classmates pushed her out of the way when she tried to approach a friend and even tripped her in the classroom, according to documents.

When the student reacted, a teacher reprimanded her for "making a scene," documents show.

Her parents pulled her out of the school and instead sent her to The Summit School, a private special education school in Queens, because the bullying had left her "emotionally unavailable to learn."

After an 8-year court battle, it was ruled Wednesday that the city denied the girl a "free and appropriate" education, which it must legally do, and ordered it to reimburse the parents for fees paid to Summit.

The court based its decision on school officials' refusal to discuss the bullying with the parents on several occasions.

When the child's parents tried to address the bullying with P.S. 6 Principal Lauren Fontana during a meeting to develop the girls Individualized Education Program on March 26, 2008, Fontana "actually slammed her hand on the table, saying that was not going to be addressed and to move on with the meeting," documents show

The court's ruling says that the student is flourishing at her new school.