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Family of special-ed student considers suing Arlington school district over injuries

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 03, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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ARLINGTON -- Although he is outgoing and has a ready smile, Peyton Jarrett spends most of his time at home now as he recovers from head and facial injuries, bladder damage and surgery to repair an implanted device that helps prevent seizures.

The Bowie High School student, now 18, was diagnosed at age 4 with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a disorder that manifests itself in multiple seizures and retardation.

But his current problems are the aftermath of something that happened at school this spring.

On April 4, Peyton was pushed down a flight of 10 concrete steps outside Bowie by another special-education student while a district employee was distracted, according to a police report filed after his mother, Patty Jarrett, saw video taken by a surveillance camera.

It shows Peyton's wheelchair clattering to the bottom of the stairs with Peyton restrained inside, appearing to land head-first on the pavement at the bottom of the stairs.

Patty Jarrett and her husband, Hayden, say they plan to sue the Arlington school district, hoping to recoup expenses such as the cost of his medical care, ongoing nursing services and the price of a new $8,000 wheelchair.

School administrators have apologized in a letter that reads: "The AISD deeply regrets what happened to Peyton. It was an unfortunate accident that we take very seriously. The district is currently working to address this issue and make sure this doesn't happen again."

But the district has not come forward with any assistance other than the teacher who now comes to their home to give Peyton his lessons, according to his parents. The parents employ an aide to help with his care.

Entities such as school districts are generally protected from litigation by what is known as the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

At the time Peyton was injured, eight students were being supervised by one teacher and two teaching assistants, district officials said.

An internal incident report including two employees' statements was compiled by the district. A copy was given to the Jarretts.

"My life's been crazy ever since the accident," said Patty Jarrett, a real estate agent. "He's been in and out of the hospital, and has had several issues.

"It's been hard on all of us; physically, financially and emotionally."

Peyton had to wear a neck brace during a four-day hospital stay. He has frequent headaches, and although he doesn't speak much, when he does, his voice is raspy.

He has an anti-seizure device implanted in his neck, which broke in the fall, and the surgery to repair it affected his vocal cords, his mother said.

The Jarretts have a younger son, Hunter, 12.

Community members are coming to the Jarretts' aid.

DFW Charity Racing, a nonprofit group of about 40 hobbyist drag racers, will host an event benefiting Peyton on July 28 at Texas Raceway in Kennedale.

"The family is actually a group of car enthusiasts," said Brian Harris, one of DFW Charity Racing's directors. "I used to have the same type of vehicle, a Pontiac GTO, that Hayden Jarrett owns."

There are other fundraisers advertised on the group's website, including $5 wristbands and $10 chances to win prizes including a sightseeing private-plane ride around Dallas-Fort Worth.

More information will be available at www.HelpPeyton.com.

Another group called East Texas Muscle Cars is donating 50 cents to his fund for each "like" on its Facebook page.

And the Arlington Board of Realtors is organizing a dinner dance in Peyton's honor later in the year, his mother said.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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