Parent of special needs child says Livingston Schools denied device prescribed by doctor
WATSON - The parent of a child with Down syndrome said she received quite the shock Monday when a letter came home with her daughter claiming she was not allowed to have a device that is meant to keep her safe.
It's called AngelSense, and is a GPS-monitoring system that will follow the child wherever she goes.
Ashley Kellett said her daughter Peyton began wandering recently, so she purchased the device that tracks Peyton's location at all times. It also gives Kellett the ability to talk to her daughter.
Despite having a doctor's note calling the device a "medical necessity," the Livingston Parish School System considers it a recording device and says it's banned from school.
"I want to know at what point integrity and character were compromised for the safety of your disabled children," Kellett said.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit first met Peyton Kellett back in November. That's when her mother said Live Oak Elementary was not following her daughter's IEP or Individual Education Program. That IEP states that Peyton's worksheets need to be enlarged for her to see. Following the interview her mom did, the school began abiding by the IEP.
The latest drama with her daughter's school has the school ready to explore a legal remedy.
"I am appalled...so appalled," Kellett said. "It's become this personal vendetta against me instead of taking care of Peyton."
In a lengthy statement issued by the Livingston Parish School System, Superintendent Joe Murphy stated it's against the law and school policies to eavesdrop or intercept any oral communication. He claims it's a violation of the privacy of 559 students who attend Live Oak Elementary. Murphy said school officials have contacted the mother and representatives of AngelSense to alert them of the violation. Representatives from AngelSense told school officials they will not reprogram the device to adhere to school policy without the express consent of the parent.
Attorney Charlotte McGehee represented another parent who captured a recording from a special needs student at a school last year. Camden Davis' story gained international attention after the recording revealed teachers mocking a noise the autistic student made. McGehee disagrees with Livingston Parish School System's interpretation of the law, claiming if AngelSense did record that the child couldn't wear it.
"If you are party to a conversation you can record that," McGehee said. "Since the child is a minor, the mother has the authority on behalf of the child to act in her best interest. She's absolutely allowed to record."
Livingston Schools are prepared to vigorously fight this. McGehee believes they'll lose.
"If there is a disparity between what a rule is for a school system and what the law is for the state of Louisiana, the law will trump," McGehee said.
As Kellett continues fighting for her daughter, she's astounded that the school would try to block her child from wearing something her doctor prescribed.
"They are making medical decisions for my child," Kellett said. "Her doctor stated it's medically necessary, and they are making medical decisions for the safety of my child. If that's the case what other decisions are they making for children because it makes them feel uncomfortable or they don't like it?"
Livingston Parish Public Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy provided this statement:
Livingston Parish Public Schools confirms there is a child at Live Oak Elementary School who is currently wearing a personal electronic device that provides GPS tracking and live audio transmission services. As the device is now programmed, it is in violation of the law and district policy.
According to La. R.S. 15:303, it is illegal for any person to eavesdrop or intentionally intercept, endeavor to intercept, or procure another person to intercept any oral communication. Such action is a violation of the privacy rights of the 559 other students who attend Live Oak Elementary School. Furthermore, it is in clear violation of Livingston Parish Public Schools Policy JCDAE:
"No student, unless authorized by the school principal or his/her designee, shall use (must be in the off position), make visible, or operate any personal electronic device including any device in a student's possession that electronically communicates, sends, receives, stores, reproduces or displays voice and/or text communication or data on any elementary, middle, or secondary school grounds or any bus while being transported to and from school or any school functions."
School officials have contacted the mother of the child and representatives of AngelSense, the manufacturer of the device, to alert them of the violation of device. Representatives from AngelSense have told school officials they will not reprogram the device to adhere to school policy without the express consent of the parent. At this time, no cooperative response has been received from the mother of the child.
Furthermore, school officials have attempted to contact the physician who prescribed the device for the child, citing the "child's safety" as the reason for the device. There appears to be no medical condition or safety precaution that would preempt the law nor the privacy rights of the other students to allow for the live transmission and possible recording of daily classroom activity. School officials are trying to determine if the prescription is valid and to gain clarification on the device's medical remedy.
Without the mother's cooperation to discontinue the illegal transmission and possible recording activities in our classrooms, Livingston Parish Public Schools will be compelled to seek legal remedy to protect the privacy rights of the other 559 students who attend Live Oak Elementary School.