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Parent of an Otto Petersen Elementary student files suit alleging improper maintenance of elevator

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - The parent of an Otto Petersen Elementary School student has filed a lawsuit against the Scappoose School District alleging the district discriminated against her child and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit claims an elevator in the building was not maintained and required special use in emergencies, and an instructional aide for the student has been removed on several occasions in the 2017-18 school year.The parent of an Otto Petersen Elementary School student has filed a lawsuit alleging the Scappoose School District discriminated against her child based on a disability.

Amber Bates, the parent of a student at Otto Petersen who is wheelchair bound, filed a lawsuit against the school district alleging it failed to properly maintain a working elevator in the elementary school building and removed an instructional aide who was working with the student throughout the school year, according to court filings.

The suit alleges the school district violated the American with Disabilities Act, and Amber Bates filed for four claims of relief for disability discrimination and failure to provide reasonable accommodations.

The Bates family is seeking $100,000 in damages for past and future medical expenses relating to mental and emotional harm caused by the discrimination and $850,000 for noneconomic damages for pain, suffering and humiliation, as well as compensation for attorneys' fees.

During the 2016-17 school year, the student attempted to use a second-floor elevator to evacuate the building during a routine fire drill and found the elevator to be non-functioning, according to the lawsuit. The elevator's electrical settings are set to disable in the event of a fire. The student was required to use evacuation equipment attached to the stairway on the second story to leave the building, which made the student "feel unsafe." Prior to the incident, neither the student nor the student's parents were notified that the elevator would not work during a fire, the suit states.

On other occasions, the student has attempted to use the school elevator and found that it was not working. Despite requests to maintain the elevator, the district did not take action to address the elevator's functionality, the lawsuit adds.

Interim Superintendent Ron Alley said he and the district facilities supervisor, Bruce Rask, are recognized as the ADA compliance officers for the district. District staff have monthly meetings when the safety of each school building is inspected, Alley explained, and if a safety concern arises, it is addressed by the maintenance director or the superintendent.

Alley did not specify how often ADA compliance is reported, however, and did not respond to a Spotlight inquiry about the frequency of inspections for automatic doors or elevators by press time Thursday.

Andrew Teitelman, the attorney representing the Bates family, filed a tort claim notice with the school district in April.

"Despite requests to install a ramp — a reasonable accommodation — the school district has failed to do so and has indicated its unwillingness to pursue this simple remedy," the tort claim states.

The lawsuit states that the student, who requires the assistance of an instructional aide during the school day, has repeatedly had the aide removed, leaving the student with no one to provide assistance. The result has been a deprivation of meaningful educational hours, the suit states.

Amber Bates declined to comment on the lawsuit and her attorney, Teitleman, did not respond to requests for comment.

The school district generally does not comment on ongoing or pending litigation.

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