Family, special-education cooperative at odds over teen’s placement

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MCCORDSVILLE — Once a month, Pam and Rich Maier pack their bags, get on a plane and fly nearly 700 miles to Kansas to visit their 18-year-old son, Alec.

Alec has severe autism, and rather than attend school locally, the Indiana Department of Education sent him to the Heartspring special-education center in Wichita. He lives year-round at Heartspring, one of the top schools of its kind in the nation.

His out-of-state placement is not only rare, state and local officials say, but the cost – footed by taxpayers – is hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Alec’s placement has also resulted in a federal lawsuit pitting the Maiers against officials at Hancock Madison Shelby Educational Services, the Greenfield-based special-education cooperative that oversees programs for an estimated 3,200 students with special needs in six school districts.

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