Yesterday, one parent got one victory against D.C. Public Schools and its treatment of his son. It was just one victory against a mountain of alleged indifference on the part of one school. Still, it was news enough. On December 3, 2007, Godfrey Henneghan filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court over the school system’s treatment of his 13-year-old son.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy ruled to allow the Henneghan case against D.C. Public Schools to go forward under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The complaint in the case reads like typical stuff, the kinds of stuff we regularly hear from parents. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less horrible.

According to the complaint, Henneghan’s son “is a learning disabled student with disabilities in speech, reading, math and written expression.” He’s always been listed with these disabilities. In August 2004, Henneghan met with DCPS officials to discuss his concerns that his son was removed from Special Ed classes without his knowledge. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) was created. It required 15 hours per week for math, reading, and writing. And one hour per week for speech and language therapy. This totalled out at 16 hours of special ed services per week.

Within one month, his son’s case started to get fishy. The complaint states that when Henneghan got a copy of his son’s IEP, the school’s principal Donnie Rutledge signed the form when the principal did not participate in the IEP meeting. It also appeared that his son’s special ed services were cut.

In October 2004, he met with his son’s 5th grade teacher. He asked her if she had read his son’s IEP. She stated that she had. “She also mentioned that she was helping Malcolm using phonics,” the complaint states.


The previous school year, Henneghan’s son had not received any special ed services and suffered greatly. The complaint goes on to claim that the school—-Burrville Elementary—-did not comply with his son’s IEP. When Mr. Henneghan started complaining, he notes in the lawsuit, the school shut down most lines of communication. He continues to allege that despite his complaints, the school continued to fail to comply with the IEP.