KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV)
A Jackson County family says their elementary-aged son was accused of being drunk at a Fort Osage school but it’s now obvious a mistake was made.
“No way, no way!” the boy’s mother, Stacey Gardner, exclaimed about her son Erik.
Gardner said her family doesn’t even keep alcohol in their home, so when the school called, the child’s parents were in shock.
“He has alcohol on his breath?” stepfather Royce Harold said. “My first reaction is, ‘Erik? Are you serious?’”
Gardner and Harold said they were honestly baffled and asked for a breathalyzer test multiple times, but Prairie Fire school leaders told the parents they had their own specialists.
What happened next can be best described as a “school sobriety test,” where the 5th grader was interviewed. In the end, school leaders determined Erik violated the district alcohol policy and he was suspended for 10 days.
Erik’s world is a bit different, which was obvious to KCTV5 investigators who met with the family and spoke to Erik while he ripped leaves and avoided eye contact.
He’s on the spectrum for autism and took speech therapy classes. In this incident he was accused of slurring his words and leaning up against lockers inside the school.
“He’s got this IEP speech impairment thing going on, so they should have known,” Gardner said.
Erik’s parents contend the truth is less scandalous and more heartbreaking – the family was living out of a motel and no one was getting quality sleep.
The parents said in the end, school leaders gave a sleepy autistic child with speech issues a “school sobriety test.”
“It’s a whole big mess for no reason, for no reason at all,” Harold said. “I didn’t expect that out of educators who are supposed to be for kids!”
The family took Erik to a private lab and paid for a breathalyzer. The results show Erik blew .000
“Here’s the results! You see there’s nothing in there!” Gardner told KCTV5 News.
School refused to comment
Following the private test, Gardner said she shared all the information with the school but said school leaders refused to back down.
Erik was suspended for 10 days and then did in-school suspension.
“They can’t do that. You can’t just kick him out of school after proof and everything else,” Harold said. “And then you turn around and suspend him for 10 days!”
On top of the suspension, there was a 90-day probation period.
The family has switched school districts, but the suspension followed Erik in his school file.
“When he’s transferred from school to school, that goes with him. Any superintendent, principal or teacher can see that, and they say, ‘Ah ha! Bad student. I need to watch him more closely this year.’” attorney Rebecca Randles noted. “It puts him on a different track.”
Randles was hired by the family to help fight the suspension and remove it from Erik’s permanent record. She represents many families seeking legal advice when it comes to schools.
She said this case has few legal avenues, but it just floors her.
“It’s fine to investigate. What’s not fine is to take facts and create alternative facts that don’t exist,” she said.
Erik’s family has filed a complaint with Missouri’s Human Right’s Commission but say all they are really seeking in an apology for Erik.
“I want them to apologize to my son no so much us more my son because I think he deserves it,” Gardner said.
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