- Andrea Ball American-Statesman Staff
The Texas Education Agency has fired its special education director.
Laurie Kash, who started work in August, was recently accused in a lawsuit of trying to cover up child abuse allegations while she worked as a special education director at Rainier School District in Oregon. The $1.85 million suit claims that Kash ordered several employees to keep quiet about the child’s allegations.
“These allegations were not disclosed during the hiring process, and if these serious allegations had been disclosed, she would not have been hired,” according to a statement issued by TEA.
“The existence of allegations of this nature, given her roles and responsibilities, prevent her from carrying out her duties effectively in Texas, and the agency has terminated Dr. Kash’s employment,” the statement added. “Dr. Kash has no business being in charge of special education policy and programming in Texas.”
Kash’s attorney, Bill Aleshire, says his client was open about the circumstances behind the lawsuit and never hid anything. Aleshire said his client learned about her firing from the Statesman.
“Laurie absolutely denies the allegations filed in the Oregon lawsuit — one day before the statute of limitations expired for the 2015 events,” Aleshire said. “The allegations were previously investigated by three different Oregon state agencies and found to be without merit. Laurie mentioned these allegations in her job interview for her Texas position.”
Kash’s termination comes a few days after the Texas Tribune reported that the lawsuit had been filed.
Her firing also comes one day after Kash filed a federal complaint against the Texas Education Agency, claiming the agency wrongly entered into a $4.4 million, no-bid contract with a Georgia company to analyze private records for children with disabilities.
Kash asked the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General to investigate the TEA’s contract with SPEDx, a company hired to find trends and patterns in student records. In her complaint, Kash says that she is worried that parents do not realize such information is going to a for-profit company, that TEA should have gotten bids from other companies and that she doesn’t believe SPEDx can do the work with which it is charged.
“In what I’ve seen so far, I am extremely doubtful that this company is capable of providing anything particularly useful, and I worry that the end-result may actually be harmful to special education in Texas,” she wrote.
TEA officials say that they chose SPEDx after “a thorough review of the landscape of vendors in the US” because the company is the only one with the sophisticated analytics capacity necessary for the work.
Aleshire insists that Kash was fired because she went to the feds.
“If anyone wondered about what kind of people we’re dealing with at TEA, just look at them telling the press they fired her before telling her, and on the evening before Thanksgiving,” Aleshire said. “This is how TEA treats a whistleblower, plain and simple.”