CHARLESTON - A Sissonville High School graduate is suing the Kanawha County Board of Education for not preparing him well enough for life as an adult and is seeking $1 million in punitive damages.

Thomas P. Sturm says in a lawsuit filed April 4 in Kanawha Circuit Court that corrective measures weren't taken when his grades dipped below a C-minus average, as was stipulated by a special education program that he was subject to.

Sturm alleges that he has attention deficit hyperactive disorder and his performance wasn't properly monitored as a special education student. He also claims that he graduated with a third grade-level reading ability.

"I don't think there's any really serious question that the regulations and guidelines and statutes were not followed in this case," said Michael T. Clifford, Sturm's attorney. "The fact that he has a high school diploma when he's functionally illiterate and already on (Supplemental Security Income) speaks for itself."

Sturm also says no measures were taken when he was expelled from Dunbar's Ben Franklin Career Center in 2002 for having a knife on his person.

West Virginia Code states that a school is responsible for making sure no one who is functionally illiterate graduates high school

Clifford says an administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration has declared Sturm functionally illiterate.

School Board attorney Jim Withrow says he hasn't been served a copy of the case yet, though he says educational malpractice cases haven't usually been successful in other areas of the country.

"I haven't received a copy yet," he said. "I guess he's asserting he wasn't provided appropriate educational services."

Sturm is also seeking damages for injuries and loss of future income.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-617




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