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Tuesday, June 29, 2004



Thank you. That's very disturbing to read about.


This is ridiculous!!!! My daughter has ds and I would feel the same way that Jan's parents feel. There is no reason that Jan should be banned from the playground, since he has not done anything wrong. I think that the teachers aide should not be worrying about another peer on the playground when she is suppose to be watching the other students. She wasn't doing her job. I also think that the school should not be able to ban Jan from the playground because it is a public playground. How much authority do our schools have now anyways?


.I am a teacher and my son has high functioning autism. The complaints and concerns that the school noted are all very typical behaviors of nondisabled children equal to Jans chronological age and from what I have read Jan has done nothing out of the ordinary. Legally the school was required to obtain the parents written consent before observing their child therefore the parents filing suit is justified. It would be in the child's best interest and in the schools best interest to offer Jans family a monetary settlement. ...If this goes to court Jan's family will win and I can guarantee this case will be cited in many future court cases. This case going to court, and Jans family winning, would be to the benefit of other families with autistic children across America. The situation the Falmouth School District has created for themselves is not a very good one and will have a serious impact on our society regardless of who wins.


I think what the school did to Jan is unjust. Jan has every right to play in the Falmouth Public School playground as any other student. This is a public playground and he has every right to participate with other kids. Jan has a disability and it should be recognize. The public school should be helping him not descriminating him. I have a low functioning autitic son and I know how it feels noone wants to be around him or help him out. That as why I faught with the school district and the state of California to help him. I do not blame the parents for suing the school because if it this is what it takes to defend their son and get their voices then I back them 100%. According to the Federal government every public school must comply with disability act and that means do everything in their power to help children with disability and that includes "AUTISTIC CHILDREN."


To clarify the playground aspect of this case, this is the issue:

"The case also raises the legal question of whether school officials can deny a home-schooled student access to a public playground. Falmouth's policy allows home-schooled students to use school services as long as the access does not disrupt regular school activities or cost extra. The school principal has to approve the access."

The playground seems to be on school grounds from this paragraph, and home schooled students may use it, but only with permission. It's still a public facility though.

Josh C

I can't believe the nerve of some people. They should be trying to help more for this kid instead of hindering the situation. Its these F!@&ing close minded people that walk the earth that bother me the most. Its time to wake up!

I hope Jans parents win the suit, and he'll be playing there again soon.



Just a correction for the editor:

The local paper is the Portland Press/Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram

... but this information is worthless - as they've ignored the whole sorry mess (even as the local TV stations picked up on it).


Life is not so simple! I know a boy with aspergers and we like him a lot. He can be scary though. Why should School employees be expected to devote their time to guarding one individual who's not even their student?
It's criminal that our courts would consider financially punishing them for being concerned with his actions. It's stupid to tie peoples hands like this and speaks to a big problem with public schools.
It'll be up to a judge to decide whether his actions were threatening and whether to do something about it.
I also homeschool my 3 boys. I do it because I don't feel it's others obligation or their business to take care of my kids!



Cross posted from another board. Written by the mother of the boy who was banned from the school playground in Falmouth, ME. This issue has been reported on in the Washington Post. It's seen as an important case.
She refers to Kathleen in this, she is the woman who wrote this essay on the right to be autistic without being discriminated against.

Gayle (Jan's mother) is a fine artist. She works in hand made paper and printing.



"Yes, the case will continue on Monday.

This is primarily due to the fact that the Director of SPED spent 30 minutes
on the stand (we timed it) going over Special Ed Regulations -which are
neither relevant to my home-schooled son, generic to the case, nor relevant
to with their banning my son from from public property.It was a deliberate
time wasting maneuver.

Since we were all getting sleepy, and the Judge confused, We then decided to
put witnesses out of order and put me on. I established that ;
Nine inches of assessments of my son existed, and were in their
posession (but have obviously gone missing)-They wanted more.
That they never read this stuff. -and wanted more (to not read)
That Our son has an excellent team of professionals, paid for by us,
who monitor his growth, acquisition of sqills and POSITIVE ,skill based
,(not punitive )behavior program

We did get the Police Officer on the stand - who said yes, he would arrest
me, and place my son with a state agency, if we went on the playground, (or
any other public venue that the "Former" Superintendant decided). Very
strange idea - to place my son with a state agency- considering that my
husband works from home, and my Dad lives with us.(Wouldn't you bring the
child home?) Although the Police Department has my son's information on
file-information that that he may run, doesn't recognize people, is tactile
defensive, etc- this officer was NOT AWARE of this (?)

Also, my son's neuropsyc came. (This man was the first to state, in writing,
"JR will not be "normalized", he is normal for him.Person's woriking with JR
are to have knowledge of JR and respect for his differences.") He stated
that he had read the school's 18 pages of snooping notes, and agreed
that -"JR's behavior is AS, and normal kid stuff."

And my husband, who is also AS did make it on to the stand, to report his
conversation with the police.

So, we go back on Monday. I'm so grateful Kathleen came. The van was GREAT!!
And we were able to pass out her writings to everyone. (I intend to
repeatedly request that Maine Public Radio read this piece in its entirety.
They are intelligent people. Their audience can understand this)

And Kathleen is right, these people are mean and cruel. (And they don't like
me) -Gayle


I'm a maternal grandmother to a 5 yr old autistic girl. I live with her, her 2 yr
older (normal) sister, and their mother, my (divorced) daughter.  I feel like this:.

That mother withdrew her son from that school, to home-school him, for a reason. 
She felt they couldn't meet his needs; because his needs were/are too damn high! 
"She" took him out of the school, so she ought to keep his ass off of that school's property!  Since the parents could afford to hire additional professional assistance
for him, they should also have some backyard playground equipment for him. If she
has friends, w/kids, she needs to occasionally have them over (and v/v) to interact
with her son.

Come on, we just have to face facts, our kids (grandkids) aren't like most of the other
kids; they're neurotically disturbed, Period! Then mixed that with 'this big boy' the mother said is gaining weight> being a friggin' Brownbelt in Karate- Damn!  They
(the school personell) 'have to' SUPREMELY watch that boy- Sheeesh! 

Hell, I love my grandbaby to death, and will try my level best to bust
the stars out of ANYBODY who'd even 'think about' harming (physically, emotionally,
socially) her!  ..But, I (and my daughter) also know (and admit) that her movements, behavior, sounds, physical strength, and inadequate ability to properly communicate;
as well as just her outward physical appearance and expressions; are frightening to
other kids!  ..This hurts to admitt, but, it's the truth. So, protect 'all of the kids'!!!

I feel like this woman is trying to punish that school through her own personal anger
and frustration of her son's disability!  ..And, that she's wording things in order to
acquire sympathy and outrage; in 'her' favor; from families of other Autistic, or like, relatives; especially autistic children!  I'm in full agreement with the School!


What I fail to understand, and it's not in any story I have read, is why alternatives were not offered, by either side? I mean, it seems to me that Jan was overwhelmed with all the kids, and activity and reacted to the overstimulisation (sp?). So why in the name of all that is holy and good, did not anyone suggest having him come at dismisal time, when some kids would be at the play ground, but not as many as at recess? Or some other such comprimise.
Putting a kid in a situation where other kids are going pick on, and belittle him can not serve any good purpose.
He needs to be socialized, but he needs that to happen in an environment where he can get the most out of it..and full recess does not seem to be that environment at this time.


i want to get a message to the mother of this boy, if possible. My son has been diagnosed with ADD, and his doctor has since realized that he too has asperger's syndrom. However, since we weren't aware of his condition, he went through school normally all of his life. Being on the other end, i would like to say one thing.

Please, please, please, put your son into a normal school setting. My son, too was teased, but so were many of the kids for various reasons. So instead of feeling different, he learned to deal with things, got a bit tougher, and has made many friends as a result.

His friends have always known that he was different, or eccentric, or whatever, and now that he is 15, a high school sophmore, handsome, and a great drummer in the school band, his eccentricties have ceased to matter.

I used to tell him all of the time, "the things that make you different now will be the EXACT same things that will make you a cool person when you're in college." and it's true. my son has gotten through some tough times, but being around other kids was like being in the class he needed the most. he's learned to adapt, and get along with people, and has done it on his OWN terms. I would tell Mrs. Rankowski to have some faith in her son and his ability to adapt. Keeping him separate is only making him more different!

so let him go to school -- because that's where the kids are! He probably has even more trouble getting along because he's getting his cues from media or other sources. he sounds bright... so have patience, and have faith in HIM. he has a long, long life to live, and you won't be there to sheild him forever.

Marie Cook

As a concerned resident, I have been following this story from the beginning, deciding to reserve my judgment until after the hearing. First off, Jan was not banned from the playground; he was simply suspended. He was going to return once a behavior plan was established that would allow him the flexibility to be himself without endangering other children. Since he was homeschooled and had been out of the school system for over a year, school administration simply needed their own, current assessment of his needs, triggers, and breaking points. And his behavior was not as simple as walking the wrong way off benches. Instead, he was throwing rocks at other children and swearing at students and aides. People living in the Falmouth community support the school on this issue -- a letter in today's Forecaster demonstrates that. Also, not mentioned are the numerous families that also have children with autism that have testified on behalf of Falmouth. There are several families with autistic children successfully participating in the Falmouth school system. Parents attended the hearing and testified, in court, that Falmouth did a great job working with the family to come up with an individual plan to ensure the success of their autistic child. In fact, Attorney Coles (Rankowski's attorney), during the trial, pointed out what he believed to be an inappropriate punishment to a child for a behavior worse than anything Jan did. What Mr. Coles did not realize at the time was that the child he was using to demonstrate the Falmouth's discrimination against Jan was instead a child who also had autism -- the "punishment" was a direct result of a behavior plan tailor made to this child's behavioral patterns. I have to assume he was not trying to make the defendant's case, but instead did. It is law that the school playground may come under the rules of school officials during the school day for obvious reasons -- there are a lot of adults out there who could do awful things to children when given the opportunity. This allows schools to safeguard our children when there -- and that includes being hurt by other children. We all know that in situations like this, it is the child who loses most. Not the parents. Not the school. However, if Jan's parents spent more time trying to regain his access to the playground instead of running to every media outlet, I would like to think that Jan's needs would be better served. I read the judge's decision and anyone who reads it understands that the law was followed in this case. The issue is discrimination -- discrimination needs proven forethought and malice. This is not a case of discrimination -- Jan was a participant in the school and on the playground for years until his behavior became harmful to other children and a current, school sanctioned plan was not available. Everyone agrees that they wish things could be different -- but I now know that the reason lies in the parents' unwillingness to work with the school rather than the school singling out Jan. I also believe in the progress that special education is making in terms of being understood and appreciated in mainstream schooling. There is a fine line between treating kids like every other kid so they can feel normal and developing plans/patience for disabilities. I do not believe that the Rankowski's are furthering this cause -- their demands are contradictory to this movement. Either allow your child to undergo the same requirements of ALL kids with a wide range of disabilities or understand that the patience developed through learning about the child can only come with help from the parents. I understand that they had their own tests, but other children have their own tests and still undergo the school's test -- all disabilities (including autism) included. In an attempt to return Jan with kids his own age, the parents should allow Jan to undergo this assessment and return him to the playground -- that's all it takes. No lawsuits. No hearings. No judges. ONE BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT. and it's the same assessment for all kids. How can Jan's parents look at him knowing that it's that simple to get him back on the playground but they won't allow him to do it? He was not banned, he was suspended until this assessment was concluded. Very simple solution to a very sad situation and the parents are holding up the resolution.

Marie Cook

As a concerned resident, I have been following this story from the beginning, deciding to reserve my judgment until after the hearing. First off, Jan was not banned from the playground; he was simply suspended. He was going to return once a behavior plan was established that would allow him the flexibility to be himself without endangering other children. Since he was homeschooled and had been out of the school system for over a year, school administration simply needed their own, current assessment of his needs, triggers%

L.B. House

Wether or not the school finds it inconvient or not , or if the other neighbors side with them, the ADA is still the law of the land. While the parents have the right to homeschool if that is truely the best course, they shouldn't feel that is the only alternative. The school system's overall response is far short of meeting legal standards, and the parents should appeal, as they will eventually be succuesful.

B. R. Estaville

Jan's story was recently told in the L.A. Times. Once again, the liberal press puts a spin on an issue that should never have wasted ink on a legal pad. Jan has a problem...his parents must take responsiblity for their son's actions...if others are at risk, then Jan must be excluded in some activities provided by the local public education system. Time, energy, and money are wasted on a problem that is the direct responsibility of Jan's parents...supervising their child, or placing him in a "special needs" program that allows for one-on-one supervision.


I am not sure where "liberal press" comes into this issue. I don't agree with your analysis that this is a political issue or the case of the Rankowskis trying to shuffle their proper parental responsibilities onto the state or the hapless taxpayer.

The law of the land, under which the Rankowskis sued, was the American With Disabilities Act and IDEA. It might be good if you educated yourself about these two before commenting on issues having to do with kids with disabilities.

The suit arose because kids without autism who had behaved more violently than Jan were given lighter consequences--one or two day suspensions, not banning. Reading between the lines, it also appears that the Rankowskis got a bit sideways with the local school authorities.

Sir or Madam, early aggressive intervention for kids with disabilities, while expensive in the short term, is less expensive in the long term in terms of care.

S. Chance

This is completely absurd. I am good friends with a girl in my class who has autism. She functions highly, and people don't even know she has it until she tells them. She is also very smart and an amazing writer. Oh wait - and her name is BRIGID RANKOWSKI. She is JAN'S OLDER SISTER. She is very supportive of her brother and defends him when people speak ill of him. Even though she is a clever girl and functions well, some people at our high school still make fun of her. I think part of the problem here is that so many people do not understand what autism IS. I don't fully understand it myself. But Bridge is my friend and I love conversing with her. She has amazing insights. When we talk about what she calls "her brother's case" she supports him firmly. She also finds it funny how she is only mentioned in one or two articles on the case. I think this is a grave mistake. Brigid has a great affect on both her family and her school community. Can you imagine what it is like for this family? To have two autistic children? And to be going through something as hellish as this lawsuit over something that shouldn't have occured in the first place? This has turned - for Brigid anyway - not only into the fight for her brother's social freedom, but a fight for acceptance and understanding of autistic people. There are so many things we do not understand. How can we possibly judge someone without knowing what they are going through?


I just found this wonderful site:

Kevin, thanks for your openness and honesty.

Dwayne Williams

The following comments were I sent to the Portland Press Herald on July 22, 2004 after reading about the incident online.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Comments on

Decision due in boy's lawsuit

By GREGORY D. KESICH, Portland Press Herald Writer

[email protected]

I am writing to comment on the article that was in the Portland Press Herald, Thursday, July 22, 2004. I am the father of a 9 year old boy that was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2. My wife and I grew up in Maine. Eight years ago when our son was just a year old we moved to Illinois. Because our roots are in Maine we try to keep in touch by reading the Press Herald online. We have read many of the articles in the past few years that have been printed about individuals or families of people on the autism spectrum.

I read and reread this article. We are quite familiar with the Falmouth area. My mother in-law lived in Falmouth until last year when she moved out here to Carbondale. In fact 3 years ago we spent part of the summer visiting Maine, both my son and daughter spent an entire afternoon playing on that same playground. I tried to put myself in the position Jan’s parents. At the same time I recalled many of the struggles we have been through with our son trying to get services for him over the years.

I must congratulate the judge for throwing the case out and I hope that if a decision is made, it is made for Principal Powers and the Plummer Motz School. A lawyer that represents such a case has either not done their homework, lacks ethics or is looking to establish a reputation. Several lawyers I have communicated with in Chicago told me that the first step is always arbitration. One lawyer said that 80 to 90 percent of their cases are settled by arbitration. It is such a shame that Jan’s parents are wasting all this time and energy and most probably a considerable sum of money on a lawsuit when they should be utilizing all these resources to help their son. You can pretty much get a good idea of their mindset by reading the article, “Fitzpatrick replied, "I appreciate your sharing information about the consequences which Plummer-Motz students face for non-compliance with staff . . . However, Jan Rankowski is not a student at Plummer Motz School, and I do not have time to peruse interesting data." If Jan is to utilize the school play area, he must follow the same rules as the other students. It is true that the law protects all disabled children from being excluded from services, but at the same time the disabled child or the parents do not have the right to disrupt the people or their lives. A behavior plan needs to be developed and behavior intervention is certainly needed to curb the unacceptable behavior. Now is the time to intervene. Society is very unforgiving. Unacceptable behavior at 9 can easily turn to breaking the law as an adult. If Jan’s parents would just work with the principal and the school district so much could be accomplished.

These children can offer so much if given a chance. Autistic people play a very important role in our society. Did you know that most of the advances made in our society in the last 100 years were made by autistic people? Albert Einstein was autistic. Although many have never been diagnosed there is a good chance that significant portions of the staff at universities are on the autism spectrum. But these successes will never happen if an autistic person cannot make basic adjustments required by our society.

At first we considered home schooling. We decided that our son had to learn to develop social skills. We decided that for him to succeed he needed to be challenged on a daily basis. With such interventions as behavior management and the use of social stories he has made tremendous advances. We have sought out resources not only at the school but at the community and state levels as well as Southern Illinois University. At 4 years our son was not verbal and had major behavioral and other obstacles to overcome. With various forms of behavioral and social intervention along with a concentrated effort to assist him with academics he was mainstreamed into a regular classroom at the age of 5. He has been in a regular classroom ever since. Ryan has never had an aid, just really good teachers. To increase his attention span and to help with his sensitivity to loud noises we have used music. Ryan has been in the Southern Illinois Children’s Choir for the last 3 years and is taking piano and violin lessons. Dealing with the administration is always a challenge. We take it day to day and we do not go away. We write the behavior management plan and present at statement of needs every year at his IEP. The behavior plan is revised constantly. The possibilities are endless for Ryan and college is now a goal. Such things would be possible for Jan if only his parents would change their attitude.

Dwayne Williams


One person posted the following:
"Please, please, please, put your son into a normal school setting. My son, too was teased, but so were many of the kids for various reasons. So instead of feeling different, he learned to deal with things, got a bit tougher, and has made many friends as a result."
I was also teased. I am a gifted autistic girl with PTSD. My first school the teachers hated me, because I was weird, a newcomer, not french/ukrainian and open about the sexual abuse I'd experienced. That was a pretty bad school, but I had friends(one of whom was an NT of english descent and a newcomer, the other was a developmentally delayed kid who I suspect has CP). However, the constant conflicts with teachers were very upsetting. If I could go back in time and give my parents a suggestion it would be to remove me from that school earlier than they did. They removed me from it halfway through grade 4. They homeschooled me for the rest of grade 4.
However, they were not ready to give up on school for me. We live in a small town 30 miles out of a big town, and my parents pretended they had moved in to a friend's house so I could go to a school in the big town. I started grade 5 there.
That was an awful experience. I was bullied very badly. Mostly it was because I was a weird gifted kid, as well as vulnerable because of my previous traumas. And I was the new kid. Soon I was spending most of my time hiding in the library, reading book after book, retreating into fantasy to survive. I was told to just ignore them, so I tried. I could ignore the teacher's instructions but I couldn't ingore their insults. I became very depressed, and started wishing I could die. I was too scared to do anything, but I told people I wanted to die. I told them I was considering jumping off a bridge. I never told my parents this, but I told teachers, and no one listened. I would hold it all inside and then reach a breaking point and run off, or attack someone(one I threatened my teacher with a golf club). A few weeks into grade 7 I was transferred to a class for gifted kids, but by then I was an emotional wreck. Some kids immediately started bullying me again. I started reaching the breaking point at least once every week. I would try to run away and a teacher would try to stop me and I'd attack them, or I'd suddenly attack a bully, or I'd misdirect my anger at a kid who crossed me only slightly. I was finally kicked out of that school. My parents homeschooled me until grade 10, when I tried out regular school again. I started getting chronic anxiety again, so now for grade 11 I'll be homeschooled.
The saying "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me" is a lie. There were only a few incidents where it got physical, mainly me attacking them. Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can break your heart. Do not underestimate how awful teasing can be. I strongly suggest anyone who can afford to homeschool their neurologically different child do so, unless they have found a VERY exceptional school. I support your decision to homeschool Jan.
PS: If you e-mail me, put "nkalamo"(without quotes) in the subject line. My e-mail address has been inundated with spam, so I borrowed an idea from the webmasters of and made a very strict spam filter.

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