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Are students 'warehoused' in Lake Orion?

Special ed. parents, district staff disagree on busing issue

June 23, 2010 - Are special education students "warehoused" in Lake Orion?

Andrea Perry, mother of a special education student, says they are, and the way they're bused is one reason why.

According to Perry, her son and other students used to be on the bus and heading home before the final bell even rings. And it's been happening for most of the school year.

"He's warehoused," she said. "He is not one to invoke activity of any kind, so if they prop him up and set him there, or scoot him out early, he just follows through. He does what he's told."

Tracy Gora, another special education parent, agrees.

"(Teachers) are going to get them out as soon as those buses pull up," she said.

Gora said she's concerned about what those unused minutes add up to when multiplied by each school day.

She told Julie Stucky, special education director, that on numerous occasions this year she's witnessed CI (cognitively impaired) students standing in the hallway, outside the classrooms, ready to be dismissed at least 15 minutes prior to the bell ringing.

"On these occasions, I have also seen them dismissed and departed prior to 2:35 p.m.," Gora said.

She said one incident in particular prompted her to complain. May 6, her son was supposed to stay after school for a mountain biking club. Gora arrived at 2:30 p.m. to drop her son's bike off for him, but when she got there her son was nowhere to be found. Gora eventually discovered her son had accidentally headed home on the bus.

After awhile, Gora's son was dropped off back at school. But what concerned her was that her son's bus was already gone at 2:30 p.m. – five minutes before the final bell.

Perry says until this year, she's been too afraid to speak up about what's going on because though her son is able to attend LO schools' special education program, they live in Oxford.

"I was never told, but I felt like I was threatened I wouldn't be able to continue to attend the district," she said.

But Stucky says special education students are not dismissed early. According to Stucky, special education buses do sometimes leave before general education buses if all students are on board – but only after the dismissal bell sounds.

"They fill quicker than the (general education) buses," she said. "Unless it's in students (individualized education program), they can't leave early. I made it clear to the staff that these kids aren't leaving early."

After Gora complained in May about her son leaving early, Stucky said special education buses now leave with general education buses.

"(Before), if a bus fills up after the bell rings and all the kids come out, the bus is going to leave. But now we've just made sure it doesn't ever happen again," Stucky said.

Gora said she asked her son's teacher about the bus leaving early and she explained to Gora "that transportation told her that, due to the transportation schedule, they wanted the students on the bus and departed by 2:30 p.m. every day."

Jim Ferrand, the district's director of transportation, said the opposite in his response to Gora's email to him.

"After speaking to my office staff, I have been reassured that no one has said we need to depart the high school by 2:30 p.m.," he said. "Our schedule is school dismissal is 2:35 p.m. and departure time is 2:46 p.m. However, if all students are on the bus we will depart immediately."

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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