School district settles complaint with family of disabled student
Records show Portland Public Schools paid $55,000 to the family of a disabled student who was injured in a Grant High School classroom in 2017.
A redacted copy of the tort claim notice provided to the Tribune indicates the student, who was part of a special needs program, was placed next to a heater on March 21, 2017, and suffered first, second and third degree burns after being left unsupervised. The notice names the state, county and city of Portland's risk management departments, along with PPS.
PPS school board directors voted May 7 to authorize the superintendent to carry out the settlement with the student's family, which filed a tort claim notice against the school district in 2017.
The tort notice, which is a notice required to be provided to public agencies prior to any legal action being brought against them, claims the student's injuries were the result of negligence from school district staff. According to the complaint, the minor student, whose name was withheld, required two staff members to assist with care during school hours. At some point, the student suffered burns on the right hand from a heater at the school.
The student was taken by ambulance to a hospital and was seen by a surgical and burn specialist, according to the claim filed by Swanson Lathen Prestwich, a personal injury law firm based in Salem. The firm did not respond to a request for additional information.
The complaint against PPS isn't the first to suggest the district's inaction led to student injury and it isn't the first account of PPS ignoring the needs and rights of special education students.
A lawsuit filed against the school district in April alleges a Benson Polytechnic High School student was assaulted by another student on campus in November 2017 due to the district's negligence. That case is still pending in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Aside from the legal complaints, other parents have complained about PPS excluding or ignoring students with disabilities.
In 2016, Joey Razzano shared a photo of her daughter, a Beaumont Middle Schooler who is wheelchair bound, left off to the side away from her school's choir during a rehearsal she was supposed to participate in. Three years later, at a groundbreaking ceremony for a soon-to-be revamped middle school in May 2019, Razzano said the school failed to provide reasonable access to the activities, by allowing a food truck to park in one of the only easy wheelchair access points to the campus. Another family says the district repeatedly failed to adhere to their son's individualized education plan, or IEP.
PPS did not provide comment on the settlement or allegations.