Alex Barton with his mother, Melissa Barton
A mother whose autistic son was voted out of kindergarten in St. Lucie County last year is planning a press conference this afternoon to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit against the school district, several school officials and the local teacher’s union.
The complaint submitted in federal court alleges 5-year-old Alex Barton suffered irreparable damage when his teacher Wendy Portillo “orchestrated a ‘Survivor-style’ vote” asking the boy’s classmates whether or not he should be allowed to return to the class after he’d been repeatedly disruptive. The class voted him out 14-2.
Alex has since been diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome.
Wendy Portillo answers questions during an administrative hearing.
The school board initially suspended Portillo one year and stripped her tenure, but in June they restored her tenue and said she will be allowed to return to the classroom in November.
St. Lucie County Schools spokeswoman Janice Karst this afternoon said the district does not comment on active livitgation.
Barton this morning declined to discuss the specifics of the lawsuit, reserving comment for the press conference scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at her attorney Paul Sopp’s office in West Palm Beach.
She did say that her son now attends a private school in Palm Beach County through a scholarship.
“He’s doing so well,” she said. “His teacher’s a sweetheart.”
Sopp said that that while Barton is seeking monetary damages from the suit, a victory in the case would help other students.
“What we’re trying to do is ensure that no one in the St. Lucie County school district is denied education based upon their disability,” Sopp said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.