Local News

Reassignment Debate Moves To Courtroom

Posted March 1, 2004

— School reassignment remains a hot topic in Wake County.

Monday, that fight went to court. The parents of a 7-year-old special-needs student are suing over school assignment.

Wake County Schools' own preschool program recommended year-round schools for this child, as did other experts.

If the family wins this case, it could throw the system's reassignment plan up in the air. A lot of other families could argue that their children would be better served in year-round schools.

"John has Sensory Integration Dysfunction," Jack Sullivan said of his 7-year-old son. "That makes listening difficult, paying attention for a long period of time difficult. Those are key in school."

Sullivan and his wife have tried unsuccessfully for two years to get John transferred into a Wake County year-round school.

"Five professionals who watched my son on a daily basis recommended this," Sullivan said. "They said year-round would be in his best interest."

The Sullivans were under the impression in 2002 that the issue was John's base school. Dillard Drive Elementary was under capacity with a high number of low-income students, so transfers from Dillard were denied.

The Sullivans filed a legal appeal and lost, leading to the Court of Appeals.

"We felt as if this option was our last resort," Sullivan said.

If the Sullivans win this case, it would not just be about them. It would set a precedent; in effect, weaken Wake County's authority to assign students.

The school district's attorney did not want to go on camera but said this case could open the door for any number of transfers, and seats at year-round schools are limited.

The Sullivans have heard that argument before. The school system said in open court that that's what would happen if the court ruled in favor of the Sullivan family.

The practice of denying transfers from certain schools is not in practice anymore. But the Sullivans still have not been able to get a year-round seat.

Wake Schools officials said John's needs are being met at Dillard Drive.

A decision on the case is expected to take at least 90 days.

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