For four weeks now yellow school buses have not been running and parents of special education students are fed up. They are asking Chancellor Dennis Walcott to intervene and work with Mayor Bloomberg to get the buses running again.
In a letter sent to the chancellor on Monday by the Citywide Council on Special Education -- a parent advisory board -- the CCSE said that what it finds most "appalling about this is that you and the Mayor believe that the DOE has no responsibility in the current bus strike negotiations."
For many students with special needs, transportation is a mandated service stipulated on a students IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Alternative modes of transportation, such as taxicabs and car services, are not working out for many families, the CCSE said.
One out of every four of the most severely disabled students in District 75 is missing school due to the lack of bus service, the letter says. That echoes testimony given at a City Council hearing last Friday by Maggie Moroff of Advocates for Children and the ARISE Coalition. In an editorial in today's Daily News, Moroff writes that some 2,500 District 75 students are missing school every day.
"The city offered no plan for students who needed accessible transportation, no plan for children who needed an adult to accompany them to school and did not have a parent available, no plan for families with more than one child in different schools and no plan for families who could not afford to put out carfare twice a day and wait for reimbursement," Moroff writes.
Citywide Council on Special Education
February 10, 2013
Dennis M. Walcott
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
Dear Chancellor Walcott:
We are writing this letter to remind you of our statutory duty to advise and comment on
educational policy involving the provision of services for students with disabilities. Specialized
transportation is a mandated service as part of a student’s IEP. This service has not been
provided for the last 4 weeks. At the Busing Forum on 2/5/13 sponsored by the Bronx Borough
President, we heard firsthand the horror stories and the emotional and psychological impact the
busing strike is having on children and parents. Transportation alternatives offered to parents
by OPT, i.e., taxis or car services, are either not taking any more calls or do not go to places like
Co-op City. You were reminded by Councilwoman Debi Rose at the SI PEP Meeting on 2/6/13
that 1 out of every 4 children in District 75 are missing instruction. This is happening not only in
Staten Island but, in every borough of NYC. Please understand that the Department of
Education is in violation of IDEA. Parents are considering legal action since they have been left
with no alternatives other than exercising their due process rights under the law.
What we find most appalling about this is that you and the Mayor believe that the DOE has no
responsibility in the current bus strike negotiations. The decision made by the Court of Appeals
regarding Pre-K had nothing to do with school-aged children. As our Chancellor, you are first
and foremost responsible for providing quality, mandated services on IEP’s over saving costs.
The savings that you’re estimating clearly does not take into effect the destruction and havoc
that the long term damage that we, as parents will inherit as a result of your failure to resolve a
problem that is within your control. This is all taking place under your watch on the backs of our
most vulnerable children during the coldest months of the year.
What little trust, if any, is all gone as parents will not allow their children to get on a school bus
with drivers and matrons who have not been properly vetted. You are now putting the safety of
our children at risk. As co-authors and collaborators of the training modules for the drivers and
matrons, we expect to see the same and know that the bus companies transporting our children
are qualified, trained and experienced professionals that have a track record of transporting
children with various disabilities.
We request that you urge the Mayor to reconsider his position so you can take responsibility for
your role in fulfilling our children’s IEP and participate during this time to resolve the bus strike in
the most expeditious manner possible.
Very truly yours,
The Citywide Council on Special Education