Special needs

If Levi Meir Levi (also known as Levi Clancy) had stayed in public school, the taxpayers would be paying $7,000 or more a year for his education. Instead, diagnosed as “profoundly gifted,” he left at the age of 7 to start college. Now 14, Levi is a junior pre-med at UCLA, where he works as a math tutor. He hopes to become a cancer researcher. He and his single mother, a part-time public school art teacher, are
sueing
the school district, claiming that his education costs should be covered, just as the district would have to pay for a disabled child who couldn’t be taught adequately in a normal school. I think she’s got a case.

The complaint filed with a California superior court in Sacramento points to the state’s compulsory-education law requiring “a free and equal education” for all minors until age 18.

. . . The complaint says the taxpayer-funded public-school system owed Miss Levi and her son other school options and should have paid for his college costs under state law, or at least paid as much as the public-school district’s yearly per-pupil expenditure.

. . . “[Levi] Clancy has a fundamental constitutional interest in receiving an education that is non-discriminatory and provides for his individualized needs,” the complaint states. “UCLA is capable of providing the education for him. However, neither he nor his mother can afford to pay for this education.”

In response, the California Department of Education’s attorney has asked the state superior court to dismiss the suit “and to order Levi returned to a public secondary school.” Why not prison?

Levi blogs at LeviLevi.com.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Go Levi! Go!

  2. I think that you are right. According to the letter of the law, the child has a (federally) guaranteed right to a “free and appropriate education in the least-restrictive environment.”

    My guess is that the child will win. The question is, how much of the child’s tuition will be paid for by the state/local entities?

  3. While I wish him the best of luck, I’m not so certain of the odds. The courts are often quite reluctant to expand the state’s obligations in “thin edge of the wedge” ways. I can imagine the court taking the view that if this case ruled for Levi, there might be a flood of parents with somewhat less compelling cases that would take the school system to court for failing to provide a suitably challenging learning environment for their child.

  4. “I can imagine the court taking the view that if this case ruled for Levi, there might be a flood of parents with somewhat less compelling cases that would take the school system to court for failing to provide a suitably challenging learning environment for their child.”

    And this would be a bad thing???

  5. I hope the family wins this one. From the sound of it, the school district forced him into college because he was too gifted for them to handle, which means that they should pay for it.

    Also, the California DoE showed it’s true (and sickening) colors when its lawyer suggested that this young man be put back in a high school. It’s all about the money, let the children be damned.

  6. I had a student in my class a year ago who swore that her parents got their eastern Massachusetts public school system to pay for her gifted older brother to attend private school, since her parents were able to show the public school had no coursework he had not already mastered. If my student wasn’t pulling my leg, it seems that similar situations have arisen before.

  7. Richard Nieporent says:

    I hate to be the wet blanket around here, but I think you are inventing a new right. According to the lawsuit, the state public schools failed to meet their statutory obligation to provide a “free and equal educational opportunity”. How is that the case? If this were a “normal” child instead of Doogie Howser, then he would be going to college after he graduated from High School at age 17 or 18. Instead, he went to college at 7. Since in the former case, the state would not be required to pay for his college, then why should it be required to pay for it simply because he is going to college at an earlier age? Did the school refuse to teach him what he needed to get into college? Since he got in at 7, I guess it is a moot point. I would say that he got exactly what he needed from the public school system. They did not prevent him from reaching his goal of getting into college when he (or more accurately, his mother) wanted to go.

  8. “Did the school refuse to teach him what he needed to get into college? Since he got in at 7,….I would say that he got exactly what he needed from the public school system. They did not prevent him from reaching his goal of getting into college when he (or more accurately, his mother) wanted to go. ”

    Actually, I believe the school refused to teach him, period. I quote the following from the news article: “Miss Levi, a part-time arts teacher in Los Angeles-area public secondary schools, said she has lost more than $1 million in wages and expenses in the past seven years because the public-school system transferred her son to college at age 7 as a “profoundly gifted” student that they could not accommodate.”

    The state guarantees a free and appropriate public education to all children, yet the schools are not providing said education. Children who fall outside the schools’ normal scope and capacity often are either turned away or placed in school with woefully inadequate accommodations. Why should it be acceptable to deny these children their FAPE?

    Please bear in mind as well that while “stage parents” can be found in all realms of achievement, there are very, very few people, even among the parents of “Doogie Howsers,” who “want” their children to attend college at age seven.

  9. Denver Public Schools paid for college math classes for me during my senior year of high school, so there is some precedent for this. I don’t know if they would have still paid if I graduated early, or if I had to be enrolled in a district school.

  10. I have to wonder about the affect of compulsary education laws with regards to this case. If a child masters a K-12 education at the age of 7, what prohibits that child from entering college or the workforce? (compulsary ed laws, labor laws). If the state REQUIRES a child to be educated via the compulsary ed laws until the age of 17 or 18, the I’d say state funds (taxpayer monies) should cover the cost, no matter what level of education that child can achieve from age of 6 until he or she reaches the age set forth in the compulsary ed law (17 or 18). Some children with low IQ’s may only be able to achieve a level of education equivalent to a 4th or 5th grade education. If these children reach their potential before the age of 17 or 18, the state does not dump them out into the street. I really think this kid has a strong case.

  11. Walter E. Wallis says:

    It would appear that the return on investment for this boy’s education would be higher than some other situations I can imagine.

  12. I don’t think the family has a chance. The California says the following about access to publicly financed education:

    In amending this subdivision, the Legislature and people of the State of California find and declare that this amendment is necessary
    to serve compelling public interests, including those of making the most effective use of the limited financial resources now and prospectively available to support public education, maximizing the educational opportunities and protecting the health and safety of all public school pupils, enhancing the ability of parents to participate in the educational process, preserving harmony and
    tranquility in this State and its public schools, preventing the waste of scarce fuel resources, and protecting the environment.
    (b) A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens. Privileges or immunities granted by the Legislature may be altered or revoked.

    And frankly, I’m glad. The state has limited resources, and given the state’s compelling interest in educating all children, even the most disadvantaged, so all can function in society, I’d hate to an obviously advantaged kid soak up precious resources.

    The parents of this kid are a little irritating. You mean, it’s not enough that the kid is a brilliant achiever? They need to soak the government and the taxpayers too?

  13. Richard Nieporent says:

    I find this discussion to be quite fascinating. Some people accept at face value the statement made in the paper by the mother that said:

    “Miss Levi, a part-time arts teacher in Los Angeles-area public secondary schools, said she has lost more than $1 million in wages and expenses in the past seven years because the public-school system transferred her son to college at age 7 as a “profoundly gifted” student that they could not accommodate.”

    First of all, this statement is more that suspect. Just do the math. Divide 1 million by 7. That comes to over $140K per year (or if you want, $120K and throw in $20K a year for the cost of college). Do you really believe that they pay part time teachers that much money in California? No wonder why the school system is going broke!

    Okay, so we have now established the fact that the mother is not altogether honest in her statements. Next it said that the school system transferred a seven year old child to a college with the implication that the mother had no say in it. How can they do that? Doesn’t the college have a say in it? Also, do you not think that the state child welfare service would allow that to happen if the mother objected?

    I would say a more accurate statement would be that the mother demanded that the school provide a special program just for her son and this was the compromise that was reached. Don’t you find it strange that it took her seven years to discover that she had been treated unfairly by the school system? Even if she couldn’t figure it out, you would have thought that her genius son would have thought of it. In other words, if this decision had been forced on her she would have sued the school system immediately.

    A final point to be made concerns the concept that the State of California is responsible for the education of a child until he or she is 18 years old. First of all half of the students graduate when then are 17. Should they refuse to graduate and demand that the school pay for their first year at college? And what about a significant number of students who skipped a year of school and graduate at 16 years of age (as two of my children did)? Should they demand that the state pay for two years of college? And since these students are exceptional should they demand that the state pay not just for any college but an Ivy School education?

    It appears that when carried to its logical (or illogical) conclusion, the implications of such a policy are staggering. As they say, be careful for what you wish for. A policy that states that the school system must accommodate every unique requirement for every student would be quite costly and impossible to carry out. However, the lawyers would have a field day with such a policy as is the case here.

  14. And here’s another way to think about it:

    Supposed my child had needs that could only be accommodated at a private Muslim school? Or a Christian school? Or an all-girls’ school? Wouldn’t the state be required to pay for that as well?

    And here’s the other thing that doesn’t make sense–the interpretation of the word equal. In fact, the state of California offers “free and equal” education to all children. Equal meaning “the same.” Equal means the same as, having the same value for all. The state offers equal education. But some people don’t think it’s enough for their kids. So they don’t take advantage of it. Not the fault of the state.

    If the state had said it would provide “equitable” education, then that would be a different matter altogether. Equitable means that it would fit appropriately the needs fo the students.

    I think the Levis aren’t going to win this one.

  15. In response, the California Department of Education’s attorney has asked the state superior court to dismiss the suit “and to order Levi returned to a public secondary school.”

    I saw that one coming before I finished the 1st paragraph. They can’t allow the little mutant to set a precedent, can they?

    If the requirement is to provide a “free and equal educational opportunity” then the only objective measure of “equal” I can imagine is “equal expenditure”. Therefore the state should be obligated to cover Levi’s tuition up to the amount that would be spent on any other “special needs” student. The DOE should be grateful he isn’t at Stanford.

  16. Mike, a diag in Texas says:

    Y’all need to read IDEA better. Levi does not qualify as a special needs student. He does not meet any of the criteria for one of the 14 disabilities.

    Therefore, he is not entitled to a free and appropriate public education. That “right” only exists for SPED pupils. Any body else has to take what the district takes.

    The district will argue that the parent exercised her choice in educating Levi via another route. That the district would say if we have to pay, then he needs to be enrolled only with us, is both forseeable and a logical arguement.

  17. After reading these comments, I’ve not got to rethink whether the district should have to pay for his education.

    What I still find outrageous is the DoE Attorney’s insistence that Levi be put back in a public high school, when it’s clear that it would be nothing but a holding pen for him. Sad.

  18. “Supposed my child had needs that could only be accommodated at a private Muslim school? Or a Christian school? Or an all-girls’ school? Wouldn’t the state be required to pay for that as well?”

    This is a ludicrous attempt to confuse the subject. It’s clearly based on cognitive and developmental needs.

    “And here’s the other thing that doesn’t make sense–the interpretation of the word equal. In fact, the state of California offers “free and equal” education to all children. Equal meaning “the same.” Equal means the same as, having the same value for all. The state offers equal education. But some people don’t think it’s enough for their kids. So they don’t take advantage of it. Not the fault of the state.”

    If it meant the “same”, then special needs and disabled students would not get special help. They’d be stuck in classes with the average students where they would not get the help they need. The same stands for those who are significantly above average students like this one. The idea that “equal” means “the same” is idiotic. You and I may be equal under the eyes of the law, but we are not “the same”, and it’s moronic to pretend we are.

  19. My “should” was moral rather than legal. I really don’t expect the family to win, in fact I hope all the boat-rocking doesn’t result in the kid being removed from UCLA. It’s probably too much to hope that this lawsuit would somehow result in a voucher for any student who can somehow “test out” of the system.

    Anyway, I’m at least as concerned for all the 130-IQ borderline-gifted students being stunted in public schools, as I am for this one.

  20. I cannot speak very openly about the case, but I think there are a few facts I would like to clear up. This is a Brown v access issue for compulsory education-age children who are mandated to be in school through the age of 16. Try to hold all your thoughts around that concept.

    Levi does have 4 specific disabilities under IDEA that have allowed him access to special services at the college and university, but most states mandate services for students like Levi under IDEA (testing and accommodations), only CA, offers no services if you work above age-level.

    Levi was grade-skipped multiple times by the K-12 district due to one of his disabilities and was placed at the college full-time since the K-12 could not provide course work and accommodations for his disabilities and learning styles, as the college did (see http://nationdeceived.org/).

    I won with OCR after years but that does not mandate the system to fix anything. Try to realize you do not have all the facts from a small news article; know that if the case is 10 years old, there is 10 years of hard work there. I was ordered to sit with him thinking that I was just enrolling him in classes to meet his needs because his K-12 said it was the least restrictive environment.

    My finances are my private business, but since someone here was cold-hearted enough to judge me, let me add this to their math page. I spent the last 10 years exhausting remedy with multiple class action lawsuits with the USDE, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) since the college would only allow him to attend if I sat with him. We lost our home, factor that into your math, I lost my retirement, years of service credit, I paid for 2 hospitalizations due to Levi’s disabilities, tuition, textbooks, I borrowed money, and I sold all my investments to live and stay with Levi so that he could attend the public school where the K-12 placed him to meet his special needs. Had one of the 3 districts involved opened a single classroom at the college and placed a professional, with a specialty in this area, with 30 kids in part-time or full-time college, it would have cost nothing more than the money provided by the state.

    The bottom line is this, Brown v mandates access to our public schools, colleges and universities because public educational institution funds come from federal, state, and local taxes paid for by the people. That means access for all if they are ordered to be in school. The Supreme Court though can decide if any civil rights access issues will be revoked.

    The fact remains that we do not know if the Supreme Court will ever decide this case and if Brown v, and the legal fact that most states place students like Levi under special education protection, are civil rights for compulsory education age children that will result in a benefit for the greater good of all citizenry, this great nation, and this world of ours. And even if they don’t, I hope Levi’s dreams come true and that he solves cancer, and saves the life of someone each of you here love very much because that will result in a benefit for the greater good of all and that will have made my fight worth it all.

  21. IF the public schools actually pushed this kid out to college at age 7, and IF the state mandates that a kid stay in school until 16 (rather than to age 16 or HS graduation, whichever comes first), then I think the state owes the tuition and other direct expenses. The $1 million apparently includes quite a lot besides direct expenses…

  22. This is a situation of a right being confused with bizarre levels of accomodation. If the young student is done with school early, then he gets his education and is done. The school system has every right to just offer him a place in a classroom until a certain age if there is an insistence that he attend. What happened is that this boy learned too fast for the system. They don’t owe him more education. And it sounds like he could get it himself, anyway.

    Send him to some dance and art classes. Let him take journalism, computers, and advanced placement courses. But if he’s done with high school, the high school gets to be done with him.

    The monetary assistance a state or a district doles out to each student is contingent on attending the schools. It’s not an account with early-withdrawal dividends. It’s a pay-as-you-go system, so you get nothing if you don’t go.

    For once, I’m in total agreement with a school district lawyer.

  23. Jon sounds like a jealous parent of a couple of C- students. If that’s really way the public school system is intended to work, then it’s time to start over. Ask me why I’ll never vote for a school bond.

  24. Jon, I hope I’m misreading your comments, since it sounds to me like you’re saying that the DoE can use compulsory attendance laws to keep children who are clearly above high school level in the K-12 system. Should the state have to pay for him to go to college? I’m not sure. Does the state have any right to force a child to spin his wheels in the K-12 system when he could be flourishing in a college? ABSOLUTELY NOT! That would be a severe misuse of the compulsory attendance laws as well as a violation of their spirit.

  25. “bizarre levels of accomodation.” I like that.

    OK, I can ask for bizarre accomodation, too. I demand reimbursement for the years of independent homeschooling I had to do in California for 4 children: from 1992 – 2002.
    (10+8+5+2)

    That will be $175,000 + accrued interest, please.

    I can use the money for a 20% down payment on a 2bd 2bath house, and move the family back to California.

  26. The school didn’t force this child into college. His parent allowed him to be there and made sacrifices to accomodate that choice. But she isn’t owed money for her voluntary sacrifices. The child could have taken a few years off, read a bunch of books, done some internships or played with a chemistry set or anything else homeschoolers can do. The parent wasn’t forced to quit work and attend college with her child. She chose to do that for what she thought was her child’s best interest. Her choices had consequences. And she has to deal with them.

    And the DoE can force her to have her child be warehoused if she can force them to pay for the privilege. Take the bad with the good, or opt out entirely. Those are the two options. Maybe it’s because I’m pretty much a homeschooler and that makes me used to the idea of opting out. As a result of my choices, I don’t expect special needs accomodation, participation in school sports, or cash assistance to do the job of teaching my children. If I wanted those things, there’s a school district that would only be too glad to welcome my children.

  27. OK, Jon, glad I got your position on that. If one can opt out for homeschooling or private schooling, then it’s fine by me. I still think the DoE lawyer’s position is dispicable and shows what the CA DoE is really about, money, not the kids.

  28. I, peronally, am somewhat confused as to what learneing-related “disabilities” someone who is enrolled in college at age 7 could have, especially ones that would rise to the level of granting entitlements.

    Christ, let the kid be a kid for a year or two. College at 7 or 8 sounds deeply unwise, even if he’s intellectually capable. But that’s just me, I suppose.

  29. Adrian,

    Once the lawyers get involved, it’s always about the money and not the children. Don’t cry “lawsuit” unless you are willing to be financially scrutinized. It no longer becomes a matter of being right or even saving face: it’s about winning and hauling in the loot.

  30. Jon – You’re quite right about that.

Trackbacks

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    So there’s this 14-year-old kid who went to UCLA at age seven because he’s profoundly gifted. He and his mother are now suing California because, according to the state charter, every child under age 18 is entitled to “a free…