Monday, April 23, 2007
Help Me Howard: Deaf Girl takes dangerous walk from school bus to daycare
She is 6 years old -- she cannot hear her classmates, much less a car blowing its horn at her. Despite that, the school district has told everyone they are dropping her off on a busy street, forcing her to walk through traffic to get to a daycare. The question: Are school districts required to drop your kids off in a safe place? It's a question tonight for Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Telicia is a happy, friendly 6-year-old.
Linda Sweeting: "Say, 'Thank you.' There you go!"
And if you say 'Hi,' and she does not answer you, understand why.
Linda Sweeting: "She's hearing impaired, and she's also speech impaired, so she cannot hear, and she cannot speak."
But the obstacles don't stop Telicia from going to school like other 6-year-olds.
Linda Sweeting: "And she loves school, and every time she sees a school bus she thinks that's her bus, and I have to tell her, 'That's not your bus.'"
However, a school bus is why Telicia is on your TV right now.
Linda Sweeting: "I would like to see her bus restored for her to be picked up in the front, where she was safe, where she was supervised."
In the past, Telicia was dropped off from school in front of Precious Academy Day Care. Then the Dade County bus driver bumped a car, and Telicia's drop off point got bumped.
Linda Sweeting: "Why are you punishing her for the mistake of your driver?"
The Miami-Dade School District concluded the strip mall parking lot was not safe for its drivers, so they decided to drop Telicia off behind the strip mall at the back of the daycare.
Linda Sweeting: "I told them she would not be coming to the back because it's unsafe. She's unsupervised."
It's unsafe because Telicia can't get into the daycare from the back. Instead, she has to walk down this busy road alone, turn and go up here alone, then through the strip mall to the daycare -- all alone.
Linda Sweeting: "It would be easy to be backed over, easily be molested or picked up from back here."
And while the county says it's not safe for their drivers to pull into the parking lot, look at this -- on the day we were there, several private buses dropped kids off right in front of the day care.
Linda Sweeting: "There's other children that get dropped off in front. Nobody comes back here, but they want to put her back here, and I said, 'No way.'"
When Linda said, 'No way' and refused to budge, the county refused to budge.
Linda Sweeting: "They told me that unless I agree to put her back here they will not transport her."
And they didn't -- since Linda works and can't pick Telicia up, the 6-year-old has now missed 34 days from school while this bus battle rolls on.
Linda Sweeting: "To fight to get to school, to have the right to learn -- to me it's unthinkable."
But, legally, can you force a school district to drop a 6-year-old off in a safe place? Howard...
Howard Finklestein: "Yes, and when children are being transported to and from school, they have a right to be picked up and dropped off in a safe manner. And the younger the child is, or if a child has disabilities, the more care that must be taken."
For over a month we worked to get the school district and Linda to reach a compromise. We failed.
Linda Sweeting: "The court has a lot of concerns about this child's safety. If there's a car near her, she's not going to hear it."
The battle then wound up in front of judge Valerie Mano-Shurr. She asked the school district to use a small bus in the parking lot.
They tried it out, ran a few tests and the school district decided they didn't like that idea either.
Linda Sweeting: "The width of the smaller bus is exactly the same as the width of the larger buses."
The next solution began last Friday -- the bus stopped outside the strip mall and an aide got off and walked Telicia to the daycare. Hopefully this will keep Telicia safe.
And now, as she returns to school, she has hope that she can hear more from the other kids.
Linda Sweeting: "We recently acquired some hearing aids for her through the Stoshi Foundation. With this new hearing aid that she's given she's able to hear more of the sound of words."
Patrick Fraser: "Dropping Telicia off out back made sense to the school district because there is a gate at the back of the daycare. One problem: If the daycare opened that back gate to let Telicia in, they were told they could lose their license. Lets hope the school district keeps walking her to the front door to keep her safe. Otherwise, Linda says she will take them back to court."
Been taken for a ride by someone? Want to get dropped off? Contact us, and we'll help you school them on the right way to do things.FOR MORE INFORMATION: