I-Team: Balancing the right to educate with the right to protect - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

I-Team: Balancing the right to educate with the right to protect

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Cody's mom says her son has an I.E.P, an Individualized Education Program, for his ADHD. Cody's mom says her son has an I.E.P, an Individualized Education Program, for his ADHD.
We asked Michelle about her son's disciplinary history, wondering if the district may have other reasons for keeping Cody out of the classroom. We asked Michelle about her son's disciplinary history, wondering if the district may have other reasons for keeping Cody out of the classroom.
Dr. Rogers-Adkinson says a child, like Cody, is still entitled to educational services, but that doesn't have to be in a school environment Dr. Rogers-Adkinson says a child, like Cody, is still entitled to educational services, but that doesn't have to be in a school environment
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SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) -

The story begins on July 15, 2012 on Rueben Street in Sikeston.

"My daughter, Rebecca Nicole Cantrell, was shot with a .40 caliber," said Michelle Slayton.

Rebecca was just nine at the time. Accused of pulling the trigger, was her 12-year-old brother, Cody.

Cody was whisked away to juvenile detention. Rebecca was flown to a St. Louis hospital.

"It was very, very, scary because she had to have several blood transfusions," said Michelle Slayton.

Rebecca fought for her life for two weeks, and survived.

Her brother faced serious charges, and was immediately expelled from Sikeston Public Schools.

Crystal Britt asked Slayton, "In the beginning, you as a mother understood completely why the school expelled him?" "Yes ma'am," said Slayton. "Because he had two serious charges."

Cody faced a charge of first degree assault, which was dropped.

However, a charge of armed criminal action remained.

"I can understand (at that time) you saying this child is possibly a threat," said Slayton.

In August of 2013, Cody's case was dismissed.

According court records provided by Slayton, it was due to an unavailability of evidence.

Fast forward to today and Rebecca is healthy and in the sixth grade in Sikeston.

Cody remains expelled from school.

Mom, Michelle appealed.

She showed Crystal the letter from the district denying that appeal, but it cited no specific reason.

"When he was cleared of all charges, my question is why does Sikeston Public Schools still have the right to not allow my child to enter their public facilities and receive an education?" said Slayton.

Dr. Diana Rogers-Adkinson is the Dean of the College of Education at Southeast Missouri State University.

In the past, she worked with children with emotional disturbance.

"I have a long history of doing a lot of legal advocacy working for children with disabilities," said Dr. Rogers-Adkinson.

Cody Cantrell has ADHD.

"Under federal law, a school is expected to meet the needs of that child regardless of the behaviors and severity of conditions that child brings to the table," said Dr. Rogers-Adkinson.

Cody's mom says her son has an I.E.P, an Individualized Education Program, for his ADHD.

A mandate by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the goal of an I.E.P. is to help a child with a disability reach his or her educational goals.

"One of the primary rules under the Individuals with Disabilities Act is zero reject," said Dr. Rogers-Adkinson. "So, for a child with a disability no district has the right to reject providing a child with the appropriate services."

Michelle Slayton says the Sikeston School District is providing Cody with six hours a week of homebound tutoring at the public library.

"Doing this six hours, it is not going to give him the resources nor the mandatory credits or attendance to be able to graduate," said Slayton.

The Sikeston Superintendent of Schools declined to comment on the matter, citing confidentiality concerns.

We asked Michelle about her son's disciplinary history, wondering if the district may have other reasons for keeping Cody out of the classroom.

She showed us his record.

He has been in trouble for fighting, bringing an air-soft handgun onto the school bus, and other matters as well.

"But, what I am being told is the reason Cody is expelled from Sikeston R-6 public schools is due to the shooting incident July 15, 2012...nothing else," said Slayton.

Dr. Rogers-Adkinson says a child, like Cody, is still entitled to educational services, but that doesn't have to be in a school environment.
 
"The school has to have the data to show they've been making a good faith effort to help support the child with those particular issues," said Dr. Rogers-Adkinson.

So, the question remains...just because the courts deem a child safe in the community is that child safe at school?

Crystal Britt asked Michelle Slayton, "Would you understand concerns parents or educators may have given the school violence issues we have today...why they may not want to take a chance? "Yes ma'am, I understand this," said Slayton.

Cody told Crystal Britt that he wants to go back to school.

"This child needs a chance," said Slayton.

Dr. Rogers-Adkinson says Michelle Slayton has options.  

"The parents can engage in a mediation process with the district," said Dr. Rogers-Adkinson.

Slayton says she contacted the Legal Services of Southern Missouri for assistance, and was told that due to limited funding they could not accept her son's case at this time.

Her only option may be to consult a private attorney at her own expense.

Slayton says she understands her son may never be treated like the rest of the kids ever again, and she is willing to compromise.

Crystal Britt asked Slayton, "Even if it wasn't going to school with everyone else, if there was another solution you would be up to entertaining that?" "Yes ma'am, I would very, very much so," said Slayton.

You might be wondering, if Cody didn't shoot his sister...who did?

The jury is still out on that one.

The children's father was present at the time of the shooting, and was initially charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

He is on probation.

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