EDUCATION

AUSTIN — Texas has fired its special education director after learning that she had been accused in a lawsuit of trying to keep others from talking about the alleged sexual abuse of a student at an Oregon school district where she previously worked.

Laurie Kash started with the Texas Education Agency on Aug. 15. A lawsuit accused her of ordering several employees to say nothing about the sexual abuse allegations while she was special education director at the Rainier School District, about 40 miles north of Portland, Oregon.

“These allegations were not disclosed during the hiring process, and if these serious allegations had been disclosed, she would not have been hired,” the Texas Education Agency said in a statement.

The agency added that “Dr. Kash has no business being in charge of special education policy and programming in Texas.”

Kash’s attorney, Bill Aleshire, told the Austin American-Statesman that Kash mentioned the lawsuit’s allegations in her interview for the Texas job. He said three Oregon state agencies investigated the allegations and found them to be without merit.

Aleshire also told the American-Statesman that he believed Kash was fired because she had filed a federal complaint against the Texas Education Agency. She was fired the day after she complained to the U.S. Department of Education, saying that TEA wrongly agreed to a no-bid $4.4 million contract with a Georgia company to analyze private records for children with disabilities.

She asked the department’s inspector general to investigate the contract with SPEDx, which was hired to detect patterns and trends in student records. She said in her complaint that she worried that parents do not realize the information is going to a for-profit company and that SPEDx cannot perform the tasks for which it was hired.

Kash was not made aware of her dismissal until contacted by an American-Statesman reporter.

“This is how TEA treats a whistleblower, plain and simple,” Aleshire said.

TEA said in a statement that SPEDx was hired after “a thorough review of the landscape of vendors” in the U.S. because it was the only one with the analytics capacity sophisticated enough for the job.

Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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