Gilbert superintendent defends school district - East Valley Tribune: News

Gilbert superintendent defends school district

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Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 1:16 pm | Updated: 10:28 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

An outspoken Gilbert mother who routinely speaks at Gilbert Unified School District board meetings about autistic issues within the district received a stern response Tuesday night from the superintendent.

Parents question Gilbert's handling of autism

Superintendent Brad Barrett said all complaints filed against the district related to autism were determined to be without merit, and the district has done everything in its power to get her issues resolved.

"It should not be misconstrued this district does not resolve issues," he said. "All the issues have always been resolved in favor of the district."

Melissa Van Hook's complaints against the district concerning autistic children include claims of violating federal and state education laws, discrimination, withholding required services, altering existing policies and intentionally targeting autistic children at Ashland Ranch Elementary School.

Van Hook said Barrett's response is just another example of how the district has handled her problems with her 11-year-old autistic son and how the district handles complaints from other parents.

"For him to say everything is wonderful, blah, blah, blah, it's asinine," Van Hook said by phone Wednesday. "Not even the best police department is going to say that they're perfect. That's arrogant."

Van Hook, a co-founder of Supporting Autism Now through Education, or SANE, said she was only asking again for the district's cooperation in solving some of the issues she and several other parents have had.

"I was a little offended because he basically accused me of being a liar," Van Hook said. "I have to tell you that although he did acknowledge that we had given praise, he focused entirely on the negative. In the end I asked them to partner with us, and he didn't respond to that at all. Instead of once again trying to solve the problem, he just lashes out. I think it's ridiculous."

Van Hook filed a notice of claim against the district in October. She said she has not followed up with a lawsuit because her intent is not to get money, just help.

Barrett said the district has helped Van Hook as much as it could, but she has not "exhausted the district procedures relating to her complaint." Van Hook now needs to file an appeal of an investigation that was completed in December, and Barrett said he has been waiting for her to schedule that meeting with him.

"I want to meet," he said Wednesday. "This is not an adversarial thing. I am the next step and want to be the next step."

Van Hook said she had left Barrett a message on Monday. Barrett said he did not get the message.

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