DALLAS - One mother's fight for her son to receive special education services through Dallas ISD has turned into a drawn out legal battle with the district now suing her in federal court.
She says she was simply exercising her parental right have him evaluated for suspected disabilities, not autism which the district insisted on. The Texas Education Agency twice sided with her, but the district is still taking her to court.
“It’s been like a nightmare, like financially draining, I mean, like the worst thing ever,” said Angela Bolton-Smith.
She’s now defendant in a federal lawsuit filed by Dallas ISD. At issue -- autism testing for her son, Trent.
“Last year, he wanted to drop out in the first grade as a 6-year old,” Bolton-Smith said.
At the time, Trent was at Dealy Montessori in North Dallas, a Dallas ISD magnet school.
Bolton-Smith requested special needs testing for Trent and says she consented to evaluations for suspected disabilities, which did not include autism.
When the district said it wanted to do additional autism testing, the DISD employee who herself tests students for special education drew the line.
She says Trent had undergone prior evaluations and autism never came up. She feared an early misdiagnosis would affect him for years to come.
“We are talking about these kids lives. When you get a label, this is what’s going to follow you,” Bolton-Smith said.
The mom appealed to the Texas Education Agency, which twice sided with her.
But now, in a rare move, the district is taking the case to federal court, saying it must complete "a full and individual evaluation in all areas of suspected disability... before DISD can provide special education services."
“It’s almost like because you filed a complaint we are going to retaliate so this whole situation feels like retaliation because I used my right to file a complaint with the state of Texas,” Bolton-Smith said.
Bolton-Smith has since moved Trent to a private school, even though her other two children remain at Dealy.
She says he's now in a special education program and teachers there have not reported signs of autism.
Still, she's caught in a legal battle she never anticipated.
“No parent should have to feel someone else gets to tell them how to raise their child. Or what’s best for that child,” Bolton-Smith said.
Bolton-Smith's attorney, who's in Austin, says this case is extremely rare. She says she's only seen 3 cases like this in her 30 year career.
Bolton-Smith is now countersuing for the district to cover her legal fees after first asking for mediation but the district refused.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson says the district does not comment on pending litigation.