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Judge: Six-year-old with Down syndrome denied appropriate public education. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board considers response, including an appeal.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school administrators violated the rights of a 6-year-old girl with Down syndrome by taking her out of regular classes, deciding to transfer her to another school within 10 days after she started kindergarten and failing numerous times to communicate with her parents, an administrative law judge ruled in a 110-page decision handed down last week.

Administrative Law Judge Stacey Bice Bawtinhimer also determined that school administrators did not timely develop what is known as an individualized educational plan for the girl or complete necessary assessment and evaluations that would have provided much-needed information that would have smoothed her transition from private pre-school to public school.

Bawtinhimer said the school system violated the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was passed in 1975, and is designed to ensure that students who have disabilities are guaranteed a free and appropriate public education.

“These are some of the most vulnerable children in our community,” said McNeil Cronin, the father of Quinn Cronin, at a news conference held Wednesday afternoon at the Forsyth County Central Library. He was there with his wife, Kelly Cronin, and their attorney, Stacey Gahagan, who has a law firm in Durham.

McNeil Cronin said children like his daughter, now 7, deserve to be treated equally in the school system. That did not happen in his daughter’s case, he said.

According to Bawtinhimer’s ruling, school administrators made a series of mistakes that prevented Quinn from being in a mainstream classroom. Quinn’s parents had submitted a request to determine what school Quinn would attend, and in March 2018, she was assigned their first choice of Whitaker Elementary School. Quinn had attended several preschools, including one at Knollwood Baptist. In all those preschools, she had been mainstreamed, Bawtinhimer said.

In two previous individualized educational plans from 2015 and 2016, it was reported that she did not have “behaviors that would impede her learning or that of others,” according to the decision.

And several school administrators knew that Quinn had Down syndrome months before she began attending Whitaker, including principal Sharon Creasy. But according to the ruling, she was accused of stating at an October meeting for individualized education plans that Quinn would never have been placed at the school “had we known she had Down syndrome.”

In her ruling, Bawtinhimer describes several instances in which Quinn’s parents were not immediately notified of meetings. At an Oct. 1, 2018, meeting, Quinn’s parents left early “due to statements made by Principal Creasy and disagreements about (Quinn’s) placement” but the meeting continued for another four hours. No one notified Quinn’s parents that the meeting had gone on without them, according to the ruling.

An individualized education plan and various assessments were not done before Quinn started attending school, Bawtinhimer said in her ruling. That meant that Quinn didn’t have access to special assistance she may have needed so that she could succeed in a mainstream class. The school system didn’t provide a reasonable explanation for what this wasn’t done, she concluded.

She also noted that a teacher who had taught Quinn at Knollwood Baptist was hired at Whitaker but she was not allowed to teach Quinn at the school, even though that might have helped Quinn’s transition from private preschool to public elementary school, Bawtinhimer said.

Nine days after she started attending Whitaker, school administrators decided to transfer her to South Fork Elementary School, where she would be separated from her classmates and placed in a trailer behind the school, according to the ruling.

After many meetings in which McNeil and Kelly Cronin objected to Quinn being separated from her classmates, the parents pulled Quinn from the public school system and placed her at Forsyth Country Day School, where she was allowed in mainstream classes.

Brent Campbell, a school system spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday that the school system takes the education of all students seriously.

The school district, Campbell said, has more than 1,400 highly trained people in its Exceptional Children’s division “whose focus is making sure those children who face varying challenges have an individualized education plan to address their special needs.

“As it relates to the Cronin family and the recent decision by an Administrative Law Judge specifically, the (Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education) is still weighing its options on how to proceed, which could include an appeal,” Campbell said. “Because the timeline for appeal remains active, we cannot comment further on this matter. While the Cronin family has ability to tell their side of the story freely, federal student privacy laws prevent us from talking specifically about this student.”

Kelly and McNeil described Quinn as kind, sweet and fun-loving. This whole ordeal, McNeil Cronin said, has been incredibly hard but it has been tempered by the support they have found among other parents who have had similar experiences with the school system.

What happened to Quinn was unfair, they said.

“She never had a chance to succeed,” McNeil Cronin said.

Gahagan said Quinn’s case is not isolated. She has dealt with similar cases in federal court across North Carolina, she said.

The immediate next step is not clear, they said.

Bawtinhimer has ordered the school system to come up with an individualized education plan for Quinn and to make sure she has access to services she needs to succeed in mainstream classes. And the school system has been ordered to reimburse the Cronins for expenses of enrolling Quinn at Forsyth Country Day School.

The school system has the option of appealing the decision within the next 30 days. If the school system does, a state hearing review officer appointed by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction will consider the appeal. Beyond that, the case could go to state or federal court.

“We’re taking it step by step,” McNeil Cronin said.


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Police ID man killed in parking lot stabbing. The 31-year-old from Winston-Salem had children with him at supermarket, a witness says.

A 31-year-old man died after being stabbed in the chest while in a grocery-store parking lot Wednesday afternoon, Winston-Salem police said.

Dorrell Queshane Brayboy of Orchid Drive in Winston-Salem was found with stab wounds in the parking lot of the Food Lion at 1499 New Walkertown Road. He was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center but died of his injuries shortly after arriving, police said.

Officers responded to the Food Lion, in the Eastway Plaza shopping center, about 12:30 p.m. after someone at the store called 911 to report a man had been stabbed, said Lt. A.J. Santos of the Winston-Salem Police Department.

A witness to the stabbing, Julie Sims, said the man was with two young children when he was stabbed.

Lt. Greg Dorn of the Winston-Salem Police Department confirmed the man had children and said they, along with Brayboy’s girlfriend, were at the hospital in the aftermath of the stabbing. The children and girlfriend were not injured, he said.

Santos said multiple people saw the stabbing and that police have identified a suspect.

Investigators say the attack was an isolated incident that began with an argument. Authorities are looking for only one suspect and said there is no immediate danger to the public.

Police were searching for a man who left the scene in a gray Chrysler 300, Dorn said.

Sims said the assailant yelled a profanity before leaving the scene and that the two men were arguing in the parking lot before the stabbing.

Dorn said detectives are working on securing surveillance footage of the stabbing from Food Lion and that the store’s corporate offices would provide the footage of the incident by Thursday.

Authorities remained on the scene late Wednesday afternoon, although the grocery store was open for shoppers.

Police ask that anyone with information regarding the stabbing contact the Winston-Salem Police Department at 336-773-7700 or Crime Stoppers at 336-727-2800. Crime Stoppers of Winston-Salem also has a Facebook page.


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Man killed in shooting on Reid Road. Forsyth County Sheriff's Office investigating

One person died in a shooting at 4750 Reid Road about 9 p.m. Tuesday, Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough said Wednesday.

Deputies were dispatched to the home after someone called 911 to report hearing multiple gunshots, Kimbrough said.

When they arrived, the deputies found a man lying face down inside of the home, dead from an apparent gunshot wound, Kimbrough said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office had been unable to identify the man.

The Winston-Salem Police Department’s forensics unit processed the crime scene.

The home is about 50 yards from the Forsyth-Davidson County line and is next to Samaritan Baptist Church.

Kimbrough said he was at the scene until about 3 a.m. Wednesday and planned to go back out later in the day.

According to Forsyth County’s Register of Deeds website, the home at 4750 Reid Road is owned by Steven Condit III and Cristina Digiovanni. The two purchased the home in September of 2017, according to the deed for the home.

In a Facebook message, Condit said he didn’t know much about the incident, and that he rents out the home.

A woman who lives in the neighborhood, Lisa Bracken, said she didn’t know what happened Tuesday night but said the home always seemed to have a steady stream of traffic to and from the residence.

Bracken said she got home around 8 p.m. Tuesday night and didn’t remember hearing any gunshots. Bracken said the neighborhood is normally pretty quiet.

Anyone with information about the shooting or the identity of the deceased should call the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office at 336-727-2112 or Crime Stoppers at 336-727-2800.


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High Point University freshman arrested; 2 guns seized from his dorm room

HIGH POINT — A High Point University freshman is being held without bond after he was found with two firearms and ammunition on campus.

High Point police arrested Paul Arnold Steber, 19, in his dorm room Tuesday night.

The arrest happened after HPU students told university security officers that a student had two firearms on campus, according to a message that HPU sent to students and employees Tuesday night.

The university said in its email Tuesday night that “there is no immediate threat” to campus. HPU reported no injuries, and no shots were fired.

Steber was charged with two felony counts of possessing weapons on educational property and one felony count of communicating a threat of mass violence on educational property, according to High Point police.

WGHP/FOX8 reported Wednesday that High Point police records said that Steber allegedly had plotted to “shoot up the school” and had a “plan and timeline to kill people.” Police said they seized two weapons from his dorm room: a 9mm semi-automatic handgun and a short-barreled 12-gauge black powder shotgun.

High Point police said they have no evidence of any additional threats.

In court Wednesday, according to WGHP, a Guilford County prosecutor said Steber had been researching mass shootings since last year and planned to kill his roommate and himself if they didn’t get into a campus fraternity. The TV station also reported that the prosecutor said Steber, who’s from Boston, picked a North Carolina college because it’s easier to buy guns here than in Massachusetts.

High Point police said Wednesday that a judge ordered Steber remain in jail without bond for up to 10 days. The judge also ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation.

A university spokeswoman said Steber is a first-year student who’s majoring in political science and that HPU has banned him from campus.

State law generally bans people from carrying and possessing guns and other weapons on college and university campuses but makes some exceptions for college employees who live on campus and concealed handgun permit holders who leave a handgun in a closed container inside a locked vehicle.