Feds investigate school for denying admission to girl with disabilities

BROOKLINE, MASS. (WHDH) - The U.S. Attorney is investigating a private school in Brookline after a girl with disabilities was denied admission.

Harper Oates, 5, suffered a spinal cord injury at birth that leaves her unable to use her arms and legs. She uses a wheelchair but her mother Dawn Oates said she is very bright.

“She’s actually exceeding developmental milestones by about a year-and-a-half, two years. That’s what Children’s Hospital tells us,” said Oates.

When Harper’s family sought to enroll her in the Park School in Brookline, they were surprised when the school did not accept her. Harper’s father and two older siblings had attended the school. The Oates family offered to take care of any special accommodations Harper may need but the school said, in a statement, that “serious concerns remained that the Park School could not meet Harper’s educational needs.”

“I think, unfortunately, in this situation we feel Harper wasn’t given a fair shake that other kids her age, with her social skills and abilities cognitively, were afforded,” said Oates.

Under federal law, private and public schools cannot discriminate on the basis of disability. A third party brought Harper’s situation to the attention of the U.S. Attorney’s office, who is now investigating. In the meantime, Harper was admitted to another private school, Dexter Southfield. Oates said she was happy to see that her daughter was able to get into school and get an education.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is asking for anyone with information on the Park School’s admission process to contact them.

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