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West Ventura County Focus

OJAI : Disabled Boy Wins Case Against District

October 05, 1994|MAIA DAVIS

Ending a five-year battle between Ojai schools and the family of a severely disabled boy, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused a school district request to review the case.

The decision lets stand a federal appeals court ruling that the Ojai Unified School District must pay the family of 15-year-old Bion Jackson $97,000 in legal fees, plus thousands more for the child's educational assessment, special training and tuition to a state school for the blind.

Representatives of the Greater Los Angeles Council for the Deaf, which was the advocate for the Jackson family, lauded the Supreme Court decision as a victory for disabled children whose local schools are unable to meet their educational needs.

But Ojai school officials said they will have to take more than $100,000 out of financial reserves to comply with the court order. They said the court action raises troubling questions about how much school districts must pay for special education students.

An adopted son of Richard and Elizabeth Jackson, Bion was born deaf, blind and with a curved spine. He has never learned to walk.

From the time he was 4 to 11, Bion attended schools run by the Ventura County Superintendent of Schools. The Jackson family has argued that county-run schools failed to meet the boy's needs, including not teaching him to walk or dress himself.

Ojai school officials, however, said Bion is severely mentally retarded and may not be capable of such basic survival skills.

A federal trial judge in Los Angeles initially sided against the family, but the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that the school district must pay for physical therapy or other training necessary to give the boy enough self-sufficiency to attend the California School for the Blind in Fremont.

Ojai school officials so far have no estimate of the cost of such training.

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