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Colorado Mother Files Lawsuit Claiming Disabled 12-Year-Old Son Spent Day with Broken Legs After Being Left Unattended

— March 19, 2024

After sliding down a ramp in his wheelchair, colliding with a wall, and breaking both legs, a school employee discovered Patricia Portillo Estrada’s 12-year-old son distressed and in pain–but offered no assistance, leaving the boy to return to class by himself.

A Colorado mother has filed a federal lawsuit against Adams 12 Five Star Schools, claiming that the suburban Denver district violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide reasonable accommodations to her 12-year-old son.

According to The Denver Post, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Denver. In her complaint, Patricia Portillo Estrada claims that her son—who is not identified by name in court documents—was left unattended at a Westminster elementary school, during which time he slid down a ramp in his wheelchair and crashed into a wall, breaking both of his legs.

Attorneys for Portillo Estrada say that, by failing to supervise the 12-year-old and provide other reasonable accommodations, the district is liable for his injuries.

“Their failure to properly supervise him is what resulted in this catastrophic injury and then they made it worse because they minimized the effects of what happened,” said Igor Raykin, a lawyer representing the family.

Court documents indicate that the Rocky Mountain Elementary School student—who has intellectual disabilities and other impairments—was left unsupervised for an extended period of time on May 10, 2022. Footage from school security cameras shows the boy attempting to traverse a ramp by himself. However, the boy lost control and slid into a wall. A school employee eventually discovered him, but did not render air or offer any meaningful assistance.

“At least one unidentified school employee discovered the Plaintiff at the bottom of the ramp but did not assist him,” the lawsuit alleges. “Instead, the Plaintiff, a 12-year-old severely disabled child, was left to collect himself after sustaining serious injuries, and return himself to class.”

Emergency room sign; image by Pixabay, via
Emergency room sign; image by Pixabay, via

Although the child was “on the verge of tears” throughout the day, teachers did not investigate the incident or consider the possibility that he may have been seriously injured—and neither did anybody contact Portillo Estrada, who only learned of the accident when she went to pick her son up from school later in the same day.

“The school took no action to investigate the Plaintiff’s incident, nor the cause of injury,” the lawsuit claims. “Without knowledge of the accident, and with no information from the School, Ms. Portillo Estrada had no way of knowing the severity of the Plaintiff’s injury.”

Portillo Estrada, notes The Sacramento Bee, sent a text message to school staff asking for information about her son’s possible injuries. However, school staff did not respond quickly. And when they did reply, they told her that her son had most likely injured himself falling out of bed.

“The school’s conduct on, before, and after May 10, 2022 is emblematic of a pattern or practice of neglect and failure to accommodate the Plaintiff’s needs as a disabled individual,” the lawsuit says, explaining that Portillo Estrada was left to determine the cause of the accident and the extent of her son’s injuries by herself.

After Portillo Estrada realized that her son’s injuries were likely serious, she took him to an emergency department two days later. There, the 12-year-old was diagnosed with multiple fractures, which required splinting and the temporary immobilization of both legs. He was confined to a hospital bed for more than a week and was bedridden for a further month.

Attorneys note that the child’s Individualized Education Program—a legal document developed for special needs children that details what accommodations they should be provided—stipulated that the boy could move independently with a walker and wheelchair, but would require supervision and staff assistance when navigating ramps or negotiating other uneven terrain.

“What I hope is that this school district and other school districts and the nation actually provide proper services and supervision to kids like this,” Raykin said in a statement reprinted by the Post. “What I also hope is that the family can get some assistance with the medical services that this kid needs right now and is going to continue to need for the rest of his life.”


Child in wheelchair spends school day with broken legs when no one helps, lawsuit says

Mom sues district after son in wheelchair breaks legs at Westminster school

Unsupervised child in wheelchair broke both legs at Westminster school after sliding down ramp, lawsuit alleges

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