Carlene Mowery has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education and has filed a civil lawsuit alleging discrimination by the Logan County School Board against Todd Mowery, a senior at Logan High School, who has been homebound throughout most of his high school years. Todd Mowery is Carlene Mowery’s grandson, but she is his legal guardian, she said.
On May 12, the U.S. Dept. of Education and the Office for Civil Rights received a complaint filed against the Logan County Schools that alleges the schools system discriminated against Todd Mowery, who suffers from Fabry Disease, on the basis of disability by denying him participation in all extracurricular activities since October 2008, including, but not limited to, a senior party on May 8, because he receives homebound instruction.
The Office For Civil rights has opened an investigation into the allegations.
“He’s totally and permanently disabled and has been since he was 12,” Carlene Mowery said. “He tried to go back to school after being homebound for three years in October (2008) and he had lost 70 pounds and he has extreme fatigue, vomiting and nausea, so his doctor put him back homebound in October. They told me at the school because he is homebound he cannot participate in extracurricular activities and I said ‘What does that mean’ and he (Editor’s Note: The “he” referred to in Carlene Mowery’s quotes refers to a Logan High School counselor Carlene Mowery whose name she couldn’t remember) said he can’t go to dances or ballgames and I said ‘Well, that was a public event why couldn’t he go to that’ and he said ‘Because the school looks at it (as) if he’s too sick to go to school, he’s too sick to go to ballgames.’”
Carlene Mowery said she was at the school recently and she saw a poster for the senior party that was held at Gatti’s Pizza at the Fountain Place Mall and she spoke with a teacher and asked if Todd Mowery could attend the party and she said she was told yes. She said she was later stopped and told that Todd Mowery could not attend the party due to the policy. She was then directed to Logan High Principal Robert Lucas, who confirmed that Todd Mowery would not be permitted to attend the party. Carlene Mowery said she then went to Logan County Schools Superintendent Wilma Zigmond, who told her the same thing.
She said Zigmond told her Todd Mowery could not attend his senior party, nor his senior breakfast, baccalaureate service, to graduation practice nor graduation.
“I said ‘That’s crazy. Why can’t he go to graduation? He pulled his time like everybody else. He went his 12 years. He can’t help being sick. I’m not the one who put him homebound, his doctor did.’”
Carlene Mowery said she called Chapmanville Regional High School and all their homebound students attend all extracurricular activities and are not restricted in any way.
Carlene Mowery said she was told Todd Mowery could attend graduation only after she called a TV news station.
Carlene Mowery said she took Todd Mowery to Gatti’s on May 9 to attend the senior party.
“I took Todd to Gatti’s and it was in the middle of that big storm and there were about 20 kids standing under the awning and I said ‘Todd, I’m going to wait here for you, just to make sure there is no trouble.’ He said ‘I’ve got your cell phone, if there’s trouble, I’ll call.’ I said ‘You can’t call me because you’ve got my cell phone. If there’s any trouble, you call your dad.’ I told him I was going over to Walmart and then I was going home.”
Carlene Mowery said Todd Mowery walked from Gatti’s to Walmart through the rain. She said the staff of Logan High School sat under an awning eating pizza and would not ask Todd Mowery out of the rain under the awning with them.
“They sat there eating pizza in the dry and not one of them said ‘Todd, do you want to wait inside out of the rain until someone can come and pick you up?’ They left him out there,” Carlene Mowery said.
“When I found out what happened, I went over and asked to speak to Mr. Lucas and I said I wanted to know why he wouldn’t let (Todd) into the party and he said ‘If he’s too sick to come to school, he’s too sick to come to the party. This is extracurricular.’”
Fabry disease, according to a letter from Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation Dr. Gregory A. Grabowski, M.D., in a letter written to the Social Security Administration, “is a rare genetic lipid storage disorder characterized by a functional deficiency of the enzyme alpha-galactosidase A” which “leads to progressive accumulation of glycoshingolipids in visceral tissues and the vascular endothelium throughout the body.” The letter says the disease is “a fatal disease for which there is no cure.”
“Progressive accumulation of this material ultimately results in vascular involvement of the kidneys, heart and central nervous system,” the letter says. “Death usually occurs in the fourth of fifth decade of life and is frequently attributed to renal failure, cardivascular disease and/or cerebrovascular disease.
“Todd Mowery is classically affected with Fabry disease,” the letter continues. “His Fabry symptoms currently include daily nausea, several episodes of vomiting per day, chronic aching pain in his hands and feet with episodic severe intense pain crises of burning pain in his hands and feet and a decreased ability to sweat. Todd Mowery is currently limited by his disease. Todd’s chronic pain and decreased ability to sweat make him unable to participate fully in school activities. Because exercise can bring on a pain crises, Todd will remain unable to participate fully in his physical education class or play extracurricular sports. Chronic pain makes it difficult for a child to concentrate and participate fully in academic activities.”
In a recent radio interview, Carlene Mowery said she wants the rules changed for homebound students.
Logan County Schools Attorney Leslie Tyree said this morning the school board has a policy that prohibits all homebound students from attending extracurricular activities.
“The (TV) news coverage made it sound like there was an issue about whether or not this kid was going to be able to attend graduation and practice for graduation and senior breakfast and that was never an issue. Never,” Tyree said. “That is not true. There was never — at any time — a concern whether he was going to get to walk at graduation or go to graduation practice because those are not extracurricular activities.
“Graduation is a celebration of academic accumulation of credits. It is not an extracurricular activity like the prom or a ballgame. There was never a question that he was going to get to march.”
Tyree said Todd Mowery was prohibited from taking part in the senior party due to the countywide policy.
“That was a senior party which is an extracurricular activity and he was not permitted to attend the senior party,” Tyree said. “That’s what the policy says: ‘You cannot participate in extracurricular activity if you’re homebound.’”
Tyree said there will be an investigation of the medical allegations.
Tyree said the homebound program is for students who have an “issue” that prohibits them from attending regular school.
“I’m not referring to this case because I don’t know anything about this kid yet, but homebound, in my opinion, can be extremely abused and it’s not fair to all the kids in the world to have to go to school and then allow children who just don’t feel like getting up to skip school,” Tyree said. “And I’m not saying that’s the case with (Todd Mowery).
“Homebound is something that can be abused if there are not safeguards in place. When people come in and they start telling us their child is nervous or has headaches or doesn’t feel good in the morning or whatever the reason they want to utilize homebound services, they’re told right then, up front, that we will provide homebound service if somebody needs it, but they don’t get to be on homebound instruction then show up for all the school activities and ballgames and things like that. They are aware of that when they go on homebound instruction.”
Zigmond said the homebound program is meant to be temporary and students have to go back to the doctor every nine months to get placed back on homebound. She said the policy prohibits students from taking part in extracurricular activities and getting a job.
“Our policy is not the only one,” Zigmond said. “Several county policies have that in them. And graduation is not extracurricular. Graduation is a celebration of the completion of academic credits. It’s never been questioned.”