Kerlin Fedee thought she had found the perfect fit for her daughter — a school dedicated to the needs of young children with behavioral problems.
"They said they would be able to help her and would love to have her," Fedee said.
But Fedee was disillusioned quickly. Aspire Charter Academy in Orlando, which opened this fall, kicked out 6-year-old Natalie Querette on the first day.
Natalie, a first grader, sometimes bites, kicks and spits, especially in a new situation. She has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Her mother said the principal told her at the end of the first day that the school couldn't help Natalie because she screamed, bit and hit the teacher.
Aspire is run by Pam Schenkel, who spent 18 years as a behavioral support administrator in Orange County schools.
A week before the school year began, Schenkel said Aspire would fill an unmet need within the county.
The school, for kindergarten through grade 2, would serve many children who had spent months out of school for behavioral reasons, Schenkel said.
"If the school isn't going to educate them, they feel isolated," she said of the families.
District policy calls for schools, including charters, to call together a team of adults to discuss a disabled student's placement when problems arise. This is part of the federally required Individualized Education Program for students with disabilities.
But Schenkel said the charter has its own rules. "We're just following our handbook," she said.