We wish we were making this up.
Two sets of neighbors in the Sunnyvale, California neighborhood Arlington Court have filed a lawsuit against Vidyut and Parul Gopal for creating a “public nuisance.” And the reason? Not excessive music or gross lawn habits, but their 11-year-old autistic son. Yes, you read that correctly: Four grown-ass adults are suing a family over an autistic child.
According to The Washington Post, the boy (referred to as M in the story) was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old. The neighbors filing the suit claim M has acted out aggressively toward children and parents in the neighborhood, creating an “environment of concern and fear which continues to this day.” Specific incidents in the report include spitting on a neighbor’s dog, biting, pulling a 4-year-old boy off his bicycle and injuring another 5-year-old.
One set of neighbors in the lawsuit seeks damages for M allegedly decreasing property value in the neighborhood. Again, we wish this wasn’t true.
Reportedly, the four plaintiffs tried to settle things with the Gopals out of court, but they couldn’t reach a compromise. When the Gopals suggested alternating days when M and the other children played outside, the plaintiffs shut down. They didn’t want to agree on anything that restricted the “freedom” of their kids. (Granted, they are aware the incidents aren’t necessarily M’s fault. They just want the Gopals to keep a closer eye on him.)
“We shouldn’t have to live in constant fear of the next incident,” Marci Flowers, one of the the plaintiffs, said. “We are not monsters. We just want to protect our children.” (You can get more specific details on the lawsuit here.)
We’re very unsettled by this suit. This boy has autism, and there are other ways to reach a resolution besides taking things to court. Jill Escher, president of the Autism Society of San Francisco, called the lawsuit “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” (per The Washington Post), and we have to agree.
Perhaps the plaintiffs should have consulted Jill’s organization before running to the courtroom. Then, this entire situation could have been avoided. Yes, the boy’s actions could be seen as upsetting, but there are alternative ways to address them. Disability is not criminal. Are these four grown-ups aware of that?
What do y’all think about this lawsuit? Sound off in the comments below.