November 3, 2009
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - A Clarksville couple said their special needs daughter is being bullied and physically assaulted at school. The parents said they are pulling their daughter from the public school system.
The Nelsons are recording every assault on their daughter. They claim Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools is giving them the run-around and someone is going to get hurt.
"Jabbed in the neck with pencil," said father Steve Nelson. "Punched in the nose."
Autism makes Steve and Holley Nelson's 12-year-old daughter a special needs student, and cruel classmates make her a target.
"She really needs to be moved. She's afraid to go to school. She has anxiety issues about it," said Holley.
More and more school districts are transitioning special needs students into mainstream classrooms.
"You would walk into a classroom tomorrow, and you wouldn't know who's regular education and who's special education, and that's intentional," said spokesperson for Clarksville- Montgomery County Schools, Elise Shelton.
Shelton said blending students is a win-win. As for the Nelson case, Shelton said school leaders are responding appropriately by pairing the girl with positive peer groups and not students who might tease her.
The Nelsons, though, are not convinced inclusion is best or even safe for their 6th grade daughter.
Steve went before the school board to plead for intervention on behalf of his oldest daughter, who has gone from loving school to loathing it.
School board members did not respond to Steve's presentation Tuesday, and they are not required to. The Nelsons said they can appeal to get their daughter enrolled in one of two private schools and have Clarksville - Montgomery County Schools pick up the tuition cost.
The Nelsons have a meeting next week with school leaders to fix the problem and keep her in public schools.
The family signed a waiver allowing the school system to talk to NewsChannel 5 about their daughter's predicament.