The parents of a 3-year-old are suing in federal court after they say their son’s preschool acceptance was rescinded when school officials learned of his autism diagnosis.
Jennifer Sample and Eliot Ferguson say their son won a coveted spot at the private Washington Market School in New York City. But as soon as the couple informed preschool administrators that the boy identified in court papers as O.F. was recently diagnosed with autism, the offer of admission was retracted, they allege.
Sample and Ferguson are now suing the Manhattan school and two administrators charging that the actions are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The couple say their son was turned away without even being evaluated by the school.
In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in New York this week, Sample and Ferguson said they saw several children at the Washington Market preschool with special needs during their tour including one with a classroom aide. The school also hosted a talk by noted self-advocate Temple Grandin, the family said. They allege that school officials said their son would not be able to attend because, unlike other students, he already had an “official” diagnosis.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for Washington Market to exploit someone of the stature of Dr. Temple Grandin to create the appearance of being autism-friendly when, in actuality, Washington Market could not wait to discriminate against our son on the basis of his ‘official’ diagnosis,” Jennifer Sample said in a statement. “It is offensive to me as a parent that in order to maintain our son’s acceptance, I would have had to hide our son’s diagnosis because of Washington Market’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. No parent should ever be punished for telling the truth.”
The family is seeking mandatory training for staff and administrators at Washington Market and is also asking that a federal monitor be appointed to ensure the school complies with the ADA in its admissions process.
In a statement to Disability Scoop, the Washington Market School indicated it is reviewing the complaint.
“The education and well-being of all students and the commitment we make to our community is central to our mission. As such we are saddened by the baseless allegations made in this lawsuit,” the statement said.