The parents of a hard-of-hearing child cut through school district boundaries to resolve a dispute over where their child will attend school.
First-grader Alex Achten will finish the school year at Linwood Elementary School and possibly attend there one more year before he must switch to Mead School District unless the family moves, said Penny Achten, the boy’s mother.
Penny and her husband, Kelly, agreed to meet with Mead special education officials in June to work on an education plan for Alex. The Achtens live in the Mead district. Linwood Elementary is in the Spokane School District.
Mead agreed to pay the Spokane district what it costs annually to educate Alex, about $16,000, including state and federal money that will pass from Mead to Spokane.
The resolution came during a mediation session last week. The Achtens had filed a request with the state superintendent for a due process hearing, but agreed to meet with a mediator.
The roots of the dispute go back to 1993 when the Achtens moved from the Spokane district to Mead School District. Their son continued to attend Linwood where he had gone to preschool. Linwood has a large number of deaf and hard-ofhearing students and a highly regarded deaf education program.
This fall, Spokane School District officials said Alex no longer could attend Linwood unless Mead paid for him. Mead refused to pay saying they had a program suitable for Alex.
The Achtens fought the decision to place Alex at a Mead school. They said Linwood had a superior program because it had more deaf students as peers and role models for Alex.
The Achtens also tried unsuccessfully to sell their house so they could move back into the Spokane district.
“I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders, Penny Achten said Wednesday. “But it’s a shame to put any parent through what we had to go through.”
The Achtens hope a proposed state law will give parents of deaf children more authority in where their children attend public school.
Penny Achten plans to speak at a rally in Olympia on Feb. 6 in support of the so-called Deaf Bill of Rights.
She compared the imaginary lines between school districts to the Berlin Wall. “It shouldn’t have to be this hard when you’re just trying to do what’s right for your child,” she said.