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School Offers Mom $86K To Keep Son With Autism Out


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A California mother says that public school officials have offered her tens of thousands of dollars to take her son with autism out of school.

Heather Houston says officials with the Yuba City, Calif. schools made a settlement offer of $86,000 in exchange for her waiving the right of her son, David Swanson, 21, to receive special education services to which he is legally entitled until age 22.

Houston tells that the settlement offer in August came in response to complaints that Swanson — who in addition to being on the autism spectrum is nonverbal and has diabetes — faced discrimination and was force-fed at school.

District officials acknowledged that the offer was made, but declined to comment further about the case.

Houston insists that her son has a right to complete his education and learn skills like writing his name and phone number.

“The law says he’s allowed access to education,” Houston told “I don’t want their money. I never wanted their money.”

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Comments (17 Responses)

  1. Thomas C. Wood says:

    As a person on the Autism Spectrum, I am very much “outraged” by this “illegal and immoral act” on the part of a bunch of “public servants” in Yuma, California.

    As I see it, any and all “local” Yuma, California area members of ASAN, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network should “protest” this.

  2. Michael says:

    Would be good if we could get a little more information…

  3. Amanda D says:

    There’s a whole lot more to this story than is being reported here.

  4. niffari says:

    There’s a lot missing to this story. If the school can’t provide an appropriate setting for the young man’s last year, perhaps an APS can. $86,000 can pay for a year’s services.

  5. marie camp says:

    This young man has a right to finish his education. The school should use the money to inprove the their special education department to meet the needs for other students. How dare they bribe, this is unthinkable and reported to the state and national department of education.

  6. Aspiemom says:

    She could use the funds to put her son int a private school, and quite likely keep him receiving services for several years.

    Why would anyone ant their son or daughter to return to a school where the student was force-fed?

  7. Tendai says:

    Wow! The actions of the school and employees are utterly heinous! Follow the link to abcnews and you will see more info like the staff believed a recording device was on the ipad so they made the boy leave it in the rain. They didn’t let the boy have a cupcake nor did they even bring one for him even though the nurse who is there to monitor his glucose said he could have it and adjust for it. The force feeding in order to teach manners was unorthodox and on the level of rubbing dog’s nose in stuff. When the mother asked that the nurse attend the school meeting to discuss what she observed with the force feeding, the nurse’s bosses (she works for the district as well as the mother and son to monitor his diabetes among other needs) told the nurse to call in sick. It’s all a shame. The hush money is so the mom will drop her civil rights complaint on behalf of her son along with other complaints, cease to make more complaints and just go away. The very definition of hush money. So read the article provided above in the hyperlink and you’ll be shocked too. Her son has a right to free and appropriate public education better than what they are providing. I wonder if they are providing anyone appropriate education to any of their special needs kids considering their attitude towards this child.

  8. soricobob says:

    Gee, $86k without a lawyer, I wonder…..

  9. Lyelle Palmer, Ph.D. says:

    Sounds to me that these actions are personal whims and decisions by untrained and uneducated (in special education) personnel, or else the advice is coming from similar unprofessional sources. More background is needed and a master advocate could perhaps provide quicker and smoother actions. The school staff appear to be acting out of emotional reactions rather than professional attitudes.

  10. Beverly V Theil says:

    Having read the ABC report I completely understand the school district wanting desperately for the mother to settle and agree not to further sue the schools. They are in danger of a number of charges through a civil suit regarding physical treatment (force feeding; including vomited food); destruction of property (damage to communication device); and possibly abuse of a handicapped person (destruction of the communication device and the force feeding). This school district is in more trouble than anyone wants to deal with and they know it.

    This is about more than education or money. This is about human dignity that this child is being denied on a daily basis by uneducated, ignorant, insensitive people.

  11. Flora Murray says:

    This is horrible. Ms Houston his every right to advocate for special ed services for her son. Kudos to her for “taking the high road” and shame on Yuba City Schools for trying to stand in her way. They should be helping her find ways to achiever her goal instead of discouraging it.

  12. Michelle Fontes says:

    I’m very surprised that they offered you that to take him out of school however they get that amount for your son being in schoolwe have been struggling with the fact that the school district cannot seem to meet my son’s name saying that offer me money to take him out however in his best interest I found a homeschool that works with handicapped children it tends two days a week I have a caregiver who works with him to other days a week I work goes in one day a week and then we do field trips so don’t look at it as a bad thing look at is it like you can use those funds to help educate your son and give him a better life and probably enhances education more so than the public school and Yuba City would do

  13. David Snow says:

    This is the extention of the introduction of “No Child Left Behind”. Full inclusion is not always in the best interest of the child. We chose home schooling for our special needs son. Those that can’t compete on an even ground with the other students are “forced out”, not “left Behind”. Such a sad state of affairs.

  14. Susan says:

    Been there, done that… Why don’t you consider taking the money and finding him a much better private school? He would probably get better help with his goals and a friendly atmosphere to learn. I know that sometimes it’s the principal of the matter and you don’t want to back down but hey, $86K can get your child the best of the best for quite a few years. I would at least do to the research on what is available within the private sector especially if it is what would do best for your child.

  15. Sandra Santos says:

    I`m a mother of an autistic boy of moderate Level, with great dificulties on comunication, almost non verbal, who started intervention programs when he was 36 months and who actually has aquired comunicating skills througt computer and other technics, but lacks autonomy in most day living activities. I saddly recognize descrimination in most population,but never stop to inform specially the younger people that autist persons have inner potential and a peculiar way too experience events, interpersonal relationships. I deeply subscribe the profoud grief of all the parents, because this is my life in the past 9 years, with great repercursions in my profession, but I have a blessed son. We live in Lisbon, Portugal, where Autism is rising in prevalence, in recent times.

  16. Natasha says:

    Maybe the school just does not have the need facilities to cater to the her son’s needs. I think there is more to this story. I will need some more details.
    However, the parents should take the money and get their son the best private school care possible and use some of the funds to advocate for the right of children with disabilities to access quality education.
    It is just a shame that in this day and age children are still being denied free access to education. What has happened to the “No Child Left Behind” Policy ?

  17. TAMILA LOGAN says:


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