Path between desks in a classroom

A former special education teacher in Weld County School District RE-8 has filed a lawsuit alleging that her school administration created a hostile work environment for her on the basis of her developmental disorder, and discriminated against her students in violation of federal law.

Laura Anderson wrote in her complaint in U.S. District Court that she began as a special education teacher at Fort Lupton Middle School in 2015, where she worked with seven students per year who had autism, a serious emotional disability or an intellectual disability. In August 2017, Anderson herself received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. During a staff meeting prior to the start of the school year, the principal asked employees to write on a notecard anything that she should know about them. Anderson revealed her diagnosis, stating that it affected her “frustration tolerance, ability to remember things she hears, and her interactions with other people.”

Anderson said she subsequently discussed the matter with the principal individually, as well as with a half dozen other employees. Afterward, Anderson alleges that the principal “began to blame Ms. Anderson for issues and treat her less favorable than others without a disability.” Anderson’s requests for assistance from paraprofessionals were denied, she did not receive a substitute teacher on similar occasions as her colleagues, and she alone was required to fill in for paraprofessionals, she wrote.

During the 2017-2018 school year, Anderson said that she made multiple complaints about the manner in which Fort Lupton treated special education students, such as excluding some of them from general education classes, counting early dismissals of students for poor behavior as suspensions, and discriminating against a student when she “stood up for herself.”

She brought those complaints to the principal and superintendent, claiming that the administration had violated the federal rights of special education students. In February 2018, Anderson reiterated her beliefs by email to the entire special education department as well as to the administration. One month later, the assistant principal told her that the school would recommend to the board of education that her contract not be renewed for the next year. The board subsequently terminated Anderson's employment.

Anderson concluded that the school created a hostile work environment for her, which violated state law because of her diagnosed disability. Furthermore, by complaining about discrimination toward her students, “the School District took adverse action against Ms. Anderson...including, but not limited to, unequal treatment, harassment, and termination.” 

Alan J. Kaylor, superintendent of Weld County School District RE-8, did not respond to a request for comment. Fort Lupton Middle School Principal Lisa Schwartz, who was not at the school during the 2017-2018 school year, said that she did not know Anderson personally and had no comment.

The case is Laura Anderson v. Weld County School District RE-8.

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