Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our Voices Were Heard...

Here is an article that was in our local paper (The News Sentinel)today...
FWCS transport change irks some parents

By Ashley Smith
of The News-Sentinel

The parents of students with special needs in Fort Wayne Community Schools received an unwelcome surprise last week: Their general-education students would no longer be permitted to ride the special-education bus with their siblings.

The announcement came as a shock to parents, who made their voices heard at the board meeting Monday night.

“I got a call from the transportation department. … There was no phone number left,” said Jennifer Littleford, mother of four children, two of whom are high-functioning autistic children. “It was just, ‘We’re not doing it this year.’”

Parents were told there were issues with the general-education students riding the bus such as disruptions, Littleford said.

For Littleford’s children, who in past years were allowed to ride together, it wasn’t the need for the transportation; it was the need for the consistency.

“It compounded their school day,” she said, explaining that it may it be harder for them to learn.

But for the Hubley family, it was a bit different.

“Who’s going to help her get off the bus?” Rebekah Hubley, mother of four children with special needs, asked as she held her daughter, who is blind. “This has affected a lot of people.”

With young children, Hubley says she doesn’t know how she will get her children to school.

In the past, the district followed a standard that if there was room on the special-education bus, then general-education students could ride. And many parents are not asking that their children be taken to different buildings. In fact, Hubley is asking that her children – one special-needs and one general-education – be taken to the same preschool.

“Should it be a blanket statement that everyone can come back on the bus? No, I don’t think that’s the answer,” Hubley said. “I think that needs to be worked out one-on-one with the parents.”

Superintendent Wendy Robinson said at the meeting that the district is looking at the issue and will be in contact with parents.

I got a call from transportation today and the "old way" of doing things will be re-instated. I was almost giddy after that phone call. I am amazed that last week, EVERYONE that I spoke with said, "There are absolutely NO EXCEPTIONS!!!!!" So, this past weekend, I researched all of the laws,(FAPE--Free and Appropriate Education), IDIEA, (Individual with Disabilities Education Act), Article 7, and The 504 plan. Basically these laws are all about the rights of people with disabilities and how the school corporations have to live up to these standards. I knew I was right when I came across this statement. "If there is space available, a sibling of a special needs child, going to the same school, has the right to ride the bus with them." That was all that I was asking: Luca to ride to the same preschool as Jonas. Jonas gets on the bus at 8:05 am, Hannah and Micah, on a 'perfect' day with no delays, get on the bus at 8:20-8:25. Turnstone starts at 8:30am, and I am 15 minutes away with no traffic. There lies my issue: Luca will always be late to preschool. It was too late to enroll him somewhere else. I spoke with the preschool director of our church and all of the morning slots had been filled. There were afternoon, but Luca still naps.

So, starting this coming Monday, everything will be back to 'normal'. I joked with my mother-in-law tonight saying, "Watch, next Tuesday he is going to throw a fit and not want to ride the bus with Jonas..." :-)

So, my advice to all of the parents that read my blog and have special needs kids. READ THE LAWS AND KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!!!!!!! You have a voice, and if you feel like something is not right, research it and fight!!!!!!! Be your child's voice when they have none!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Momto14 said...

Please please please help me. We are trying to get our children in the same school as Bean. We have 6 elementary schools and only one is ADA acess. so Bean has to go to that one. There is no room for the other kids- they want to send them to a different school. We are fighting but if I had the law I would use it! Where can I find more??

One Crowded House said...

this is great! good for you for sticking to what you knew was right!

Judy said...

Yay! Let your voice be heard!

Anonymous said...

Great Job Rebekah! If anyone can do it, you can! :) -Sherry

Gwen said...

You GO girl!! Our country needs more moms like you! Our children need more moms like you! : ) You are the BEST! Congratulations on getting what you deserve!
Big Hugs!

Jennifer from DC said...

I am trying to make the same case for my son. Can you be more specific on what I can use? We are about to go into the IEP process so I am going to get it written into her IFSP that she needs the "transition assistance" of her brother, but more legal arguments would certainly help since I am not confident that I can get thsi done. PLEASE Let me know what you used to make the case!!!