Fight for Daughter’s Special Needs Leads to Trespass and Possible Felony Charges
UPDATE: 4/7/2016, 11:39 A.M. – According to Danielle Underwood, the State Attorney has decided not to file charged for the 1.5 second audio recording, taken in March 9th.
HERNANDO – It’s not uncommon for parents, teachers, and school administrators to have disagreements over a child’s grades, attendance, curriculum, or any number of issues from time to time. Every child is unique and personalities often clash – resulting in various steps being taken to resolve the issues. There are, however, some cases where circumstances become so contentious that drastic measure are required to subdue the situation.
Danielle Underwood contacted RNRF several weeks ago, to complain about issues regarding her 7-year-old daughter and administrators with Chocachatti Elementary. Underwood says her daughter, Aryana, has several learning disabilities, including High Anxiety, Expressive and Receptive Language Impairment, and possibly Dyslexia, according to Aryana’s Pediatric Psychiatrist, and Speech Pathologist.
Underwood believes her daughter meets the requirements to receive special education services through the individualized Education Program (IEP). But Aryana’s teacher, who we are not identifying, disagrees, and so do Chocachatti Principal, Lara Silva, and the Director of Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Director Cathy Dofka.
Tempers began to flare on both sides, after a March 3rd meeting with Principal Silva and ESE Supervisor Cassandra Hall, where they were to discuss Aryana’s eligibility for ESE. During the meeting, Underwood placed her cellphone on the table to record the conversation. According to Underwood, Hall asked that she not record the meeting, so she immediately stopped recording – Silva also terminated the meeting.
On March 7th Silva met with Underwood and her Daughter, where according to Underwood, Silva downplayed Aryana’s condition – stating “7-year-olds get upset and anxious,” discounting Underwood’s claims that her daughter has legitimate disabilities.
The next day, Underwood took Aryana to her Language Therapist, where without warning; she was met by Detective Joey Stokes of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. Surprisingly, Detective Stokes advised Underwood that she was being trespassed from Chocachatti Elementary and that she could be facing felony charges for Interception and disclosure of wire, oral or electronic communications violations.
On March 9th, Underwood voluntarily handed over her phone to Detectives, so that they could retrieve the 1.5 second recording of the March 3rd meeting. Assistant State Attorney Juergensmeyer is currently reviewing her case for possible prosecution.
Yesterday, after several requests to meet with Hernando County School Board Superintendent, Lori Romano, Underwood finally met with administrators at the District Office. In attendance were Danielle Underwood, Dr. Lori Romano, Deputy Superintendent, Eric Williams, Principal Lara Silva, Assistant Principal Sarah Trowell, ESE Director Cathy Dofka, Underwood’s Mother, a friend of Underwood who took notes, and Florida Disability Rights Attorney Meghan Collins (Via Phone).
The intent of the meeting was to try and lift the trespass against Underwood and address the ESE issues regarding her daughter. According to Underwood, the atmosphere was hostile and she felt as though administrators were retaliating against her for sharing the story with the media – namely RNRF.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Underwood says Silva refused to lift the Trespass because she claims Underwood has harassed and bullied her for three years. Underwood says those claims are completely untrue, and as proof, she says there are absolutely no verbal or written reports of harassment by Silva over the course of the three years.
Underwood says Attorney Meghan Collins was so astonished at the outcome that she plans to file a formal complaint against the District for violating Aryana’s Civil Rights – by denying her adequate IEP Services.
Underwood says “I feel like I’m being retaliated against because I’m standing up for my child. And what about the maintenance worker who threatened to shoot his coworkers… Why is he still allowed on school grounds?” Underwood is referring to an incident that we covered, regarding threats made by Maintenance Worker, Ricky Macky, and the ongoing investigation by the School District. ORIGINAL STORY
We contacted the District for comment, and in an email, Public Information Officer Karen Jordan Writes, “The district cannot provide the public with information regarding students’ confidential records or regarding meetings where students’ confidential records were discussed, in compliance with FERPA. We can say, however, that our March 30 meeting with Mrs. Underwood was an attempt to satisfy her weekly requests to meet with the Superintendent and district administrators and to better understand Mrs. Underwood’s ongoing criticisms of staff and supports at one of Hernando County’s highest performing schools.”
At this time, Underwood is keeping her daughter home from school until the situation can be resolved.
We will continue to bring more on this story as it develops.
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