Missing eMails complicate special-education case

Disputes over special-education programs for youngsters with autism can grow complicated, but the case of a Hillsdale, N.Y., youngster who had attended a special school has taken an unusual turn, reports the Albany Times-Union—complicated by some three years’ worth of missing eMail messages. “To date, we do not have the eMails between Taconic Hills [school system] and Anderson School during the three years from 2006-2009,” said Sandy Malm of Hillsdale, Columbia County, whose 10-year-old son, Finn, attended the Anderson Center for Autism during those years. Taconic Hills, as the boy’s home district, had an ongoing involvement in placing Finn and following up on his education. “I believe there is information in those eMails that would shed a lot of light on what happened,” Malm said. The autistic youngster went to Anderson Center between November 2006 and May 2009, before his parents removed him amid worries that he was not making progress. His home district, Taconic Hills, subsequently tried to develop a special program for Finn and other autistic youngsters, but Malm’s parents didn’t believe that was working, either, and they have since pulled him out of that school. In a hearing last year between lawyers for Malm and the school district, the parties involved noted that eMail messages about the boy’s treatment had been deleted from the Anderson Center eMail system. Nor could they be found in the school’s system, said Andrew Cuddy, the Malms’ lawyer. eMail messages, or the lack of them, are playing an ever-growing role in such disputes, but the laws regarding how entities handle electronic messages can be vague and subject to differing interpretations…

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