W.Va. High Court to Hear Case of Illiterate High School Graduate

March 4, 2008

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a functionally illiterate high-school graduate who says the Kanawha County school system failed him.

Thomas P. Sturm, 21, graduated from Sissonville High School in 2004, but can read only on a third-grade level, said his attorney, Mike Clifford.

Clifford said the school board failed to abide by state and federal laws meant to monitor and protect the rights of students with disabilities. Sturm suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“The quickest way to get him out of the system was to give him a diploma even though he hadn’t earned it,” Clifford said.

Kanawha County Judge Tod Kaufman dismissed the 2006 lawsuit last year, saying Sturm didn’t exhaust other remedies available to him.

School board general counsel Jim Withrow says Sturm could have complained about his lack of education and requested a hearing with education officials.

Clifford expects the high court to take up the case this summer.

The original lawsuit sought damages for injuries and loss of future earnings, as well as $1 million in punitive damages.

Source: The Charleston Gazette,www.wvgazette.com.

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