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  • Transportation for my Special Needs Son in St. George
    by Ashlee Phillips, Mother of Jacob Phillips
    Published - 08/15/13 - 10:57 AM | 6 6 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    School Bus
    School Bus
    (ST. GEORGE, Utah) - My son Jacob, age 7, is a mentally challenged special needs young boy. In his Federal IEP (Individual Education Plan) it states that my son will get curb to curb service because he is "Unaware of Common Danger." Curb to Curb meaning the curb in front of my home not a curb or "Stop close to home." Last year my son was picked up and dropped off in front of our house by the special education bus. Our family lives in a full size cul-de-sac on a public street. Our neighborhood is neither gated, nor do we have a Homeowner's Association restricting access.

    A neighbor called and complained to the school district about the bus driving into the cul-de-sac. This year the Washington County School District Transportation Department decided that they will pick up and drop off my son on the corner of Indian Hills Blvd and 500 South Cir. which is more than 250 yards from my home. The corner of Indian Hills and 500 South Circle is a very dangerous place to drop of my son because it is a blind corner with average vehicle speeds of 40 mph, and the on-coming traffic will not be able to stop in time should Jacob decide to run into the street. He is unaware of common danger as it states in his IEP. The corner also is far enough away from our home that I will not be able to hear the bus if she is arrives early and needs to honk to get my attention.

    It is also safer and easier for the bus driver to come and turn around in the cul-de-sac. Otherwise the driver will have to make a U-turn on Indian Hills Blvd (which is extremely dangerous) or drive much further to get the children to school. I called Transportation and talked with a lady named Penny when I heard from the new bus driver that they would not be delivering Jacob to our home this year. I relayed my concerns about my son, his disability and the dangers of the corner. She said if the bus driver was able to see me at the end of the street, the bus driver could drop him off and that it is "not safe" for the bus to go into cul-de-sacs. She also said that her "higher-ups" told her that special education buses are no longer supposed to go into cul-de-sacs. When I asked if I could take my concerns to her supervisors at the Utah State Office of Education she said that she did not have the phone number but that I could look it up online.

    After finding the number on my own, I called the Utah State Office of Education and got in touch with Morelle Martin. He told me that Special Education buses do in fact go into to cul-de-sacs on a regular basis and there is no policy of the buses not being allowed into cul-de-sacs. He did say that if the cul-de-sac was deemed unsafe by the Public Works and Public Safety department then maybe the bus would be disallowed from entry into that specific cul-de-sac. I called and talk to Kevin Cutler at the Public Works Department for the City of Saint George and he looked up my street and let me know that I live on a public road with a "full size cul-de-sac". He stated that cul-de-sacs in general are meant for a full size fire truck to turn around without any problem.

    For my son's safety he needs to be dropped off in front of my home like his IEP states, which is, from my understanding, a federally mandated document. Last year the woman who drove my son to school had her shorter special education bus break down, so she had to switch to a full size bus that was also handicap accessible. She had 2 students that were wheel chair bound. With her full size bus she was very easily able to turn around in the cul-de-sac with no problems whatsoever, even on days when there were trash cans out on the street. When the bus driver first started driving my son to school at the beginning of last year there was a time or two that she had to back up to make the full circle when the trash cans were out on the street. She has an aid with her that can look out her back window if there are any hazards or cars behind the bus. The bus driver last year informed me that the same neighbor complained and that her boss at the Washington County School District Transportation Department put pressure on her to 'fix it'. The neighbor would stand outside every morning and watch the bus driver drive around the cul-de-sac and then call and complain often. The bus driver felt pressure from her boss and from the neighbor and out of desperation asked me to help.

    We live directly across the street from an LDS church. In order to take pressure off the bus driver, we got a letter from the bishop in charge of the building giving the bus driver permission to use the chapel parking lot, which allowed the bus driver to pick up Jacob without having to drive to the end of the cul-de-sac (which is where the complaining neighbor lives). The bus driver drove through the parking lot for about 3 days and the neighbor came out and took pictures of the bus driver. The bus driver felt she was being harassed and gave up and started to drive to the end of the cul-de-sac until the end of the year. Penny stated that the LDS church complained about the bus going into the parking lot which I know is not true. I feel the Washington County School District Transportation Department has no concern for the safety of my handicapped son and only cares about the ludicrous demands of a complaining neighbor.

    I am very concerned that the very people who should be concerned for the well being and safety of handicapped children are not. It is extremely disturbing to me that last year the bus driver even heard about the complaining neighbor. The bus driver's job is to drive the kids in her bus safely home. She shouldn't have to deal with politics or the complaints of crazy people or most importantly undue pressure from her supervisors. I feel this should have stopped last year at the Transportation Department. They should know the law, and that the cul-de-sac is indeed safe for the Special Education Bus or any other school bus. Rather than acquiesce to pressure from one complaining citizen, they should inform that citizen that her complaints are noted but won't be acted upon. Instead, the school district has decided that even though it's ok for a fire truck, a FedEx truck or the trash truck to use the street, they would rather side with the "needs" of a crazy person instead of the law and the needs and safety of our child. At this point we have been unable to determine who at the Washington County School District Transportation Department is ultimately responsible for this decision, but that public employee should be ashamed. Now we intend to exert a little pressure of our own. It's what any mother would do to protect her child.

    Comments-icon Post a Comment
    August 20, 2013
    The funny part is a parent cannot get a stop changed that would be closer for a student but a complainer can call and get a stop changed just because they don't like the inconvenience of the stop? Crazy. I have a 2 year old in MO and the bus won't drive into the apartment complex. They want me to walk up onto the main road with a 2 year old to catch the bus. I have made 5 calls within a week and keep getting the run-a-round. I have been told the apartment complex won't let school buses on the property, so they assume but not one person has confirmed that yet. My son is the last stop ans the bus needs to turn around so they are using the turnaround at the church next door. My complex is a big circle drive. This bus weighs less than the trash trucks who come in here twice a week. I think it wrong when you have to fight the world when it comes to a disabled child. People think it is just so easy but we have to fight for everything. I will be contacting the ADA and ask them their take on this. If my son was in a wheel chair, would they make me wheel him up the road?

    I hope you don't give up, personally I would go confront that neighbor and ask her what her real problem is. Maybe she should think about moving to a retirement or gated community that children don't exist in. I believe in Karma, one day she will probably need a special type of bus to haul her around and she will have a neighbor complain.

    Good Luck to you, stay fighting.
    August 16, 2013
    I am very pleasantly surprised at the quick response of the Washington County school district. From what I understand, there was a mistake on my child's IEP from when I transferred from another state last year. They did not understand my child's disabilities and it has been corrected quickly. The bus will pick my son up in front of our home. I am so relieved. My son's life and safety is so important, and I feel the WCSD now agrees.
    August 15, 2013
    You need to talk to Launi Schmutz. She is the Director of Transportation for Washington School District...and she is amazing. She has a deep understanding of special needs students and transportation especially. I used to be an instructor for Jordan School District and only met her through conferences but I assure you that she will do whatever she can to help you. Unfortunately, curb to curb can mean the end of a culde sac and route stops get changed all the time when people complain for both regular and special ed. (Also as a side note the bus attendant is not supposed to be used as a guide for backing up) he/she could call you when they are approaching the end of your street however. I really do understand your frustrations but I can assure you they are only attempting to accomodate everyone the best way they can. Its a tricky business and really the problem seems to be your ignorant neighbor...not the transportation department:)
    Lori S
    August 15, 2013
    I cannot believe that the Washington County School District is putting this mother through this when it is in the boy's IEP that the service stands. I am outraged that the district would even buckle under the pressure of some annoying nieghbor who has his nose where it doesn't belong. This is a federal mandated document that is held up in court on a daily basis. I am from a much larger Clark County School District in Las Vegas. I live in a cul-de-sac that is NOT regulation size and my son's bus comes every morning just fine. I was concerned about the size of our cul-de-sac, but it has never been an issue at all. Shame on the WCSD for making a lame excuse against the directives of an IEP because they are being bullied by an annoying neighbor!
    Angela Pearson
    August 15, 2013
    Good for you!!!!! I can't believe what little things people in this world find to complain about. If this neighbor has this much time on her hands, maybe she should become a crossing guard or volunteer somewhere to take up her time doing something productive. Your neighbor should be ashamed of herself. If a bus driving in front of her house is the only thing she has to complain about, then she should consider herself blessed, and maybe pass some of her blessings on to others, by shutting her mouth! Don't give up on this. It is ridiculous that the transportation department has even acknowledge her. Get a life "neighbor". GOOD JOB MOM!!! Fight for your child, special needs or not, any child should not be dismissed as easily as your child has been.!!!
    Chris Holmes
    August 15, 2013

    Keep up the fight. As a parent of a boy with severe mental disabilities, and one who also lives on a cul-de-sac I can imagine how much more difficult it would be for us to take our Nick each day to the top of the street. Unbelievable!

    The IEP says it all, "Curb to Curb!"

    Let me know if we can help your cause by getting your story on the radio. Contact by voice or text: 435-574-9599.
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