Family taking Alpine School District to court

Posted at 7:31 PM, Feb 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-27 21:31:27-05

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah -- A family in Saratoga Springs is taking the Alpine School District to court.

They claim their seventh-grade son should be in special education classes because has an autism spectrum disorder.

The parents say 11-year-old Taylor Tenbrick has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which can disrupt social behavior.

But Taylor is also gifted. The seventh-grader tests at a 12th-grade level, is the lead trombone player in his band class at Vista Heights Middle School and is studying for the ACT--so why is he failing all of his classes?

“I kept asking the school for help, and they said, ‘There’s nothing we can do because he’s ahead of grade level. He’s gifted. There’s nothing we can do for him,” said Taylor’s mom, Robin Tenbrink.

The Tenbrink family moved to Saratoga Springs from Idaho about a year ago. Taylor said at his last school counselors and teachers worked with him when special attention was needed, but his new school, they said, is different.

“Different because they weren’t really checking up on me or helping out much,” he said.

Taylor’s parents noticed a change in his behavior. Their son began experiencing extreme anxiety and depression.

A psychologist diagnosed Taylor with Asperger's syndrome: a disorder on the autism spectrum that can make it difficult for those who are intellectually gifted to function socially.

“The anxiety is coming from not being able to work in the social situation at school like other kids do, which is why we have special education for kids with disabilities,” Robin Tenbrink said.

The district psychologist came to Taylor’s school to evaluate him and came to the conclusion that he does not suffer from Asperger’s syndrome, anxiety or depression.

John Patten is a spokesman for the Alpine School District, and he said a certain criteria has to be met before the school offers special help.

“There’s a three-prong test that has to be met in order for a child to receive a more restrictive learning environment, and according to their results and how they administer the test: He does not qualify, and so that’s why there’s a little bit of a disagreement now as to whether he qualifies,” he said.

Patten said the family, school and district all share the same common goal: They want to see Taylor succeed.

“This young man is uniquely gifted, and he has some challenges that prevent him from achieving in the way that really helps measure and reflect his true abilities,” Patten said. “The school has offered accommodations, and we’re happy to do that.”

But the family said no accommodations were delivered. They've had a diagnosis from a pediatric psychologist, a clinical therapist and a psychiatrist.

They're appealing the district's ruling with a lawsuit. The due process hearing is scheduled for April 14 and is open to the public at the Alpine School District office.