Texas

Allen ISD is under federal investigation for violating student civil rights

Allen ISD is under federal investigation after a civil rights complaint was filed against the county in late 2022.

Cristina Cabral-Arredondo, 45, said the district discriminated against her 5-year-old son Nicholas Arredondo, who has thrombocytopenia, a syndrome of missing radius. She said discrimination occurred when she enrolled him in an early childhood program for students with disabilities.

Cabral-Arredondo said the rare birth defect puts Arredondo at high risk of internal bleeding and hemorrhages. He is also missing arm bones, knee joints, and shoulder blades.

“It just changes the way he moves. But he walks, plays with toys, reads … but they make it completely inaccessible to him, ”she said.

The complaint, which was filed with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the federal department of education, alleges that the district required that Arredondo be placed in a plastic wheelchair with a five-point harness to enter the school; he was denied admission to the school until August 2022; forced him to use a plastic toilet on the floor; got back at him by threatening to expel him from school; and maintained inaccessible facilities at Cheetham Primary School, according to a letter sent to Cabral-Arredondo representatives from an OCR attorney.

Nicholas Arredondo, 5, who suffers from thrombocytopenia and absent radius syndrome, watches cartoons on his tablet. Cristina Cabral-Arredondo, Nicholas’s mother, filed a federal complaint against Allen ISD for allegedly discriminating against her son in enrolling him in an early childhood program for students with disabilities.

(Shafkat Anovar / staff photographer)

County spokesman David Hicks confirmed in an email Friday afternoon that the OCR had recently launched an investigation.

“Allen ISD strongly believes that the claims in this complaint are unfounded and all procedures have been followed in accordance with the law,” Hicks said in an email, adding that the county will cooperate fully with investigators.

Noting federal and state privacy laws, Hicks said the county cannot provide further comment or information on the matter unless the parent provides written consent.

Cristina Cabral-Arredondo, 45, offers a leaflet to her 5-year-old son Nicholas Arredondo after...
Cristina Cabral-Arredondo, 45, offers a flyer to her 5-year-old son Nicholas Arredondo after a press conference over a civil rights complaint filed by Cabral-Arredondo against Allen ISD. (Shafkat Anovar / staff photographer)

Karen Mayer Cunningham, a special education advocate who is helping Cabral-Arredondo through the complaint process, held a press conference outside the AISD administration building on Friday afternoon.

“It’s a shame in Texas that we have to fight so hard,” Cunningham said. “But we will fight it hard every day until we fix it.”

Jacqueline McClintock-Boylan, a mother of three who has faced similar challenges in the county, said it “breaks” her to see this happening to other parents.

“This is wrong, this is wrong,” she said. “It just makes me very upset.

OCR received a record number of discrimination complaints last year, with about 19,000 complaints — or more than double the previous year — received by the office in its most recent fiscal year, according to data obtained by New York Times.

Cristina Cabral-Arredondo, 45, said Allen ISD discriminates against her 5-year-old son Nicholas Arredondo, who has thrombocytopenia, a syndrome of missing radius.

AMENDMENT4:00 pm: An earlier version of this story stated that the complaint was filed in 2021.

Staff Writer Megan Mangrum contributed to this report.

The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and discussion of pressing educational issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative supported by The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottie Lyle, Texas Community Foundation, Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Didi Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, Meadows Foundation, The Murrell Foundation, Solution Journalists Network , Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab’s journalism.

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