Former Giant Steps student Esha Garg was thriving at her special needs school in Southport before the pandemic.
The student, who's described as having a severe developmental disability, loved playing in her swing, playing music and even riding a bike before COVID-19 forced her school to shut down.
“It's been very hard. It's been heartbreaking for a kid who really needs education, who thrived in education, who loved going to school,” Sumithra Sundaram, Garg's mother said.
For more than a decade, Garg had been outplaced to Giant Steps by Weston Public Schools but in a complaint filed against the Weston Board of Education, her parents say they were denied their request for their daughter to attend The Hubbard School, where many of her former teachers are at now.
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Instead, the school district recommends Garg be placed in a special needs classroom at Weston High School but her parents and teachers disagree, claiming the school cannot not meet her educational and safety needs.
“They thought that Esha was really not an appropriate student for their program,” Anoop Garg, Garg's father said.
Garg has now been outside of a classroom since July of last year and her parents say she has regressed significantly, her skills like eating, communicating and personality now far behind.
“She used to be like, very bubbly and she's kind of gone in, like, she's very quiet, she wants to sometimes just be by herself and she doesn't engage,” Sundaram said.
“We’ve asked for intensive services to help with the regression and they’ve said no,” attorney Piper Paul said.
Paul filed the complaint against the Weston Board of Education on behalf of the family. They say the district is obligated and failed under federal law to provide appropriate programs for students with disabilities, but the Board of Ed said the family has failed to prove those claims.
The state Department of Education is set to hear the arguments on Wednesday.
“The school district said, 'If you don’t come to the high school, we’re not going give you anything,'” Paul said.
This family said the toll of the pandemic is still ever-present for their daughter who they say deserves to be the person she was before.
“We want her to get the education, her to be in an environment that she thrives in,” Sundaram said.
NBC Connecticut reached out to the attorney for Weston Board of Education who has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The Weston Public Schools superintendent told NBC Connecticut the district cannot comment publicly on student matters because student confidentiality is protected by a federal law under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.