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Protection vs. Privacy: Parents fight CCSD for daughter with special needs to carry listening device

Posted at 7:14 PM, Oct 09, 2019

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Parents of a fourth-grader with special needs are fighting the Clark County School District to allow their daughter to carry a listening device after they say two strange incidents happened on the school bus.

The father of Gia Blessing, Michael Brickner tells 13 Action News it has been extremely hard for them dealing with not knowing what happened to Gia.

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Her parents believe the device called AngelSense would highlight her needs since she is autistic and mostly nonverbal. Her father believes something has been bothering her.

"[Gia’s] behavior patterns from then to now are completely different than the daughter, happy go lucky, I know," Brickner says.

He is convinced Gia was hurt by someone, at least twice, while onboard a CCSD special needs school bus.

"She kept saying ‘no no no stop.’ After that, she had terrible nightmares and temper-tantrums " Brickner says.

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Gia’s parents claim they heard those very words through the device AngelSense.

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It's a GPS and listening device that allows parents to monitor their child, but the device is banned at Clark County schools.

Now, Gia's parents are fighting two battles with the district.

One is to allow the device, and the other is to find out what happened to her.

"She's incapable of telling her parents if she's feeling threatened, if she's being abused or hit."

Marianne Lanuti is the attorney representing Gia’s case. Since Monday, they’ve been part of an internal hearing along with a school district attorney and staff.

Other parents who have had similar issues are also lobbying to use AngelSense at CCSD schools.

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“It would bring relief to us especially those of us who have kids who are nonverbal or have limited communication that cannot express themselves," says Andrea Esquivel.

For now, CCSD stands by its policy banning listening devices citing privacy concerns.

In a statement to 13 Action News, the district says it is "concerned about any possibility of severe incidents, especially among our most vulnerable student populations." Read the full statement below.

We are unable to discuss individual student matters and do not comment on pending litigation.

Additionally, devices such as Angel Sense, are reviewed on a case by case basis.

The Clark County School District (CCSD) is concerned about any possibility of severe incidents, especially among our most vulnerable student populations. CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara is looking into ways the District can improve professional learning we provide to the licensed educators and support professionals who serve our students with special needs.

Additionally, in an effort to ensure the effectiveness of the teaching and learning in our schools, CCSD under the leadership of Assistant Superintendent, Student Services Division, Dr. Deanna Jaskolski, invited an external team in late August from the Council of the Great City Schools to review and make recommendations on improvements.

Our students only have one shot at education and we will continue to make decisions in their best interest to make CCSD #1 for kids.

Please see below for information to frequently asked questions.

How does CCSD report incidents involving students with special needs?

CCSD staff is trained to follow state law requiring them to report any potential violations witnessed by staff or alleged by a parent. The specific school administration investigates and reports findings to the parents/guardians and the District’s Office of Compliance and Monitoring, which then in turn reviews and investigates the report and submits it to the State Office of Compliance. The State may then issue a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) to be followed by the school in question. In the case of suspected abuse, CCSD investigates, notifies parents/guardians, Child Protective Services (CPS), and/or the school police.

How are CCSD employees trained to handle students with special needs?

All CCSD employees are trained yearly to avoid the use of aversive interventions as they are prohibited by law. Additionally, CCSD has a series of required videos that all staff watch at the beginning of the school year. These videos are reiterated during consultation at schools.

Professional learning opportunities are also provided to staff who work with students with special needs throughout the school year to include:
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) Best Practices
  • CORE Reading Academy
  • 2-day didactic: Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Applied Behavior Analysis Hands On
  • Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI)

The internal hearing is set to wrap up on Friday.