• DOJ looking into allegations of discrimination against autistic Volusia County students

    By: Jason Kelly , Michael Springer

    Updated:

    DeLAND, Fla. - Channel 9 has uncovered that the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into allegations of discrimination against autistic students at Volusia County Schools.

    Channel 9 first reported last year about parents who filed a complaint urging the federal government to investigate how the money allocated for autistic children is being spent.

    Some have said they want the action by the federal government to change how autistic children are treated at Volusia County Schools.

    Read: 9 Investigates: Volusia County parents up in arms, say autistic children treated like criminals

    Jasmine Harper said school has been tough for her 11 year-old son, Jordan.

    She said Volusia County teachers are often ill-equipped to handle her son, who is autistic, and she said they often call police to arrest students or commit them for a psychological evaluation under the state's Baker Act for minor infactions.

    "Administrators are not doing what they need to do, so they are always depending on the police officers to do their job for them," Harper said.

    She is one of 11 parents Channel 9 first reported on last year who are urging the DOJ to investigate how funds intended for training and programs for special-needs students are being spent.

    Channel 9 uncovered last month that the DOJ set up a hotline and an email account for parents who believe the school district discriminated against their child.

    DOJ officials would neither confirm nor deny that an investigation is underway, but they said the hotline is associated with the federal agency.

    Read: 9 Investigates: Installing cameras in special-needs classrooms

    Katie Kelly is an attorney with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida and is representing parents in the initial complaint. She hopes for change at Volusia County Schools. 

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    "A kid with autism who is having a bad day should be handled by trained professional, not someone who carries a badge and a gun," she said.

    The school district said it cannot comment on a specific complaint, but it will work with any oversight agency, such as the DOJ, should an investigation be launched.

    Anyone who has experienced similar issues may contact the DOJ by calling 407-648-7549 or emailing USAFLM.VCSInformation@usdoj.gov.

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