Friday, September 25, 2015

The Solution That's No Solution At All Approach For Disable Student's and Their Parents

I am writing this in response to a news report on the situation at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School, and their response that they are “working with Mrs. Wesley”, and the truth behind their statements. I am a friend of Alexis’, and I have been following this story since LAST year when the transportation department decided that after providing her with bus service, they were going to stop doing so because she “opted-in” to the school. I don’t know why, after all they had been providing it for her despite the fact that she had opted-in, but now they want to deny her children, and many like hers, the opportunity to get the same education as everyone else.

This school is so much more than a school to her kids. It’s a community. As she has stated, many times over, the school is more than 30% disabled children. That is a community that makes her kids feel welcome. The school provides her children with a safe learning environment, which in these days, seems hard to come by. Currently there is a viral video of one brave boy standing up to a bully at his school who was beating up a blind child. Every child deserves to feel safe when they go to school to learn, and her kids get that level of comfort at this school.

I am posting, along with links, her comments about this situation from her Facebook account. I have already cleared this with her permission. I hope someone will help her and her children, as much as she has helped her community. If you go to her Facebook page you will find that she does so much for everyone, but not very many are willing to return the favor that are in a position to do so. So far only ONE reporter has picked up her story and it needs to be more. If, after reading her story, you feel compelled to truly help, please flood the San Diego Unified School District's Superintendent's mail box, voice mail box, and email in box. Here is that info:
Office of the Superintendent 4100 Normal Street, Room 2219 San Diego, CA 92103 619-725-7104 (Phone) Cindy Marten

While you're doing that, contact the school as well: Lindbergh Schweitzer Principal: Victoria Peterson Telephone Number: (858) 496-8400 ext 2166

And since we're at it, maybe we can contact the transportation department that wrongfully took away her kids' only safe way to get to this one particular school, to which their only response has been a heartless "Enroll them in another school," which tells her that they don't believe her children deserve to go to a good, safe school: Transportation Services
Scott Caldwell 4710 Cardin St. San Diego, CA 92111 Phone - (858) 496-8460

09/08/15 @ 11:35am: Crazy morning!!! Got stuck in traffic due to a lane closure for 40 minutes making us late for the first day of school. Also they don't provide a drop off lane or enough parking so families usually park blocks away down residential streets and walk their (usually able-bodied) kids in. This is usually no big deal except this is the first school day after they cut bus services for many of us. People were circling the neighborhood and cops were there chasing parking cars out of alleys! I parked so far away that I had to carry Roland, two back packs, and pushed Laelia's wheelchair down several blocks of uneven pavement before I even saw the school! Roland was crying and I was drenched in sweat. I handed all Roland's required paperwork to the office, but was told that the school nurse wants Roland's medical records from Ukraine! (Hahahahhaha!!! Good luck with that!)

I was also told to come early in order to not get blocked in by buses for 20 to 30 minutes. The bus drivers were really apologetic and really friendly (and absolutely shocked we lost bus service) but had nowhere else to go to get out of the way of the handicap parking spots and the joke of a disabled pick up/drop off spot. I'm sorry but I don't want to pull my kids out of school early every single day due to this! I am limited in what I can do because I have special needs students and need to load a wheelchair into the back! I need bus service back, darn it!

@ 6:37pm: A teacher at the school came to chat with me as I spent over a half hour trying to get my kids (while school buses blocked the handicap spots) and told me, "Many students stay home the first day because of this." Another mom spoke up and said, "Sometimes the first week!"

Not cool. A school with a student body that is 30% disabled needs a better system.

@ 7:19pm I was also told to come early in order to not get blocked in by buses for 20 to 30 minutes. The bus drivers were really apologetic and really friendly (and absolutely shocked we lost bus service) but had nowhere else to go to get out of the way of the handicap parking spots and the joke of a disabled pick up/drop off spot. I'm sorry but I don't want to pull my kids out of school early every single day due to this! I am limited in what I can do because I have special needs students and need to load a wheelchair into the back! I need bus service back, darn it!

09/09/15 @ 11:35am: Video The dangerous way the special needs parents exit the lot after getting our kids. We just cross our fingers and hope a car is not pulling in as we're reversing our way out.

This video shows how we were forced to go from the handicap parking spaces/drop off (we got there early so it wouldn't be crazy) into the street to get to campus. We are literally forced into the road where, to no one's surprise, Roland darted in front of a car this morning. Not the car's fault since we were literally in the street! I cried my way into a meeting with the transportation specialist, then the Vice Principal, and eventually the principal herself who I took on a tour. Everyone agrees it's ridiculous but don't know how to fix it. Major changes need to happen for a safe drop off and pick up that is under an hour from the time of arrival. I just told her, "School buses block this drop off in the afternoons and its locked in the mornings! Tell me what I need to do to get my kids with disabilities to school safely where I won't get blocked in for over half an hour and I will do it." Looks like the city and police department need to get involved to make the necessary changes, but in the meantime they are working on somehow helping my two get into school safely. I'm expecting a call from the principal before the end of the day. The plan in the meantime is to have my kids miss the last 20 minutes of school each day so I can get them before the buses block the handicap parking. Yeah...

09/10/15: More school drama. Met with the principal again today where I asked her to join me in dropping off my kids at school. She saw for herself special needs kids in wheelchairs being taken into the street with no safe access to the building and a giant delivery truck blocking the handicap drop off. Even though I arrived half an hour early there were no available handicap spots (preventing me from unloading my daughter), the gates were locked, and the delivery truck was blocking the spot in the curb lowered for access. The principal stopped a few other parents and an aide unloading kids and running them into the road, and they all complained. She told me if I hadn't continued to complain that she never would have known this was a problem since it's been this way for years. (I told her that there are a lot more of us now that the district no longer buses special needs kids who opt into special needs schools. But that's a different battle.)

Winning! Starting tomorrow there will be an assigned staff person at the gate allowing kids with special needs into the building safely. Another parent ran up to me in the auditorium to thank me for working this out! This doesn't solve the problem that there are not enough handicap spots, but it does become much safer for the lucky few who do manage to get a spot.

Now that drop off is better I'll focus on pick up. School buses block in the handicap parking daily and the only recourse I was given was to pull my kids out of class early every day (!) to avoid being blocked in for half an hour. Unacceptable.

09/11/15: Has the bestest safest accessiblest drop off today at school! They opened the gate and had the VP there to open it for disabled students. Many parents were thrilled!

Pick up from school still completely unbestest, unsafest, and unaccessiblest. We're blocked in by buses and I was told by the principal that there's nothing she can do about it and there is zero way to get my kids so oh well. I was told I should not continue to pull my kids out of school early to be able to reach them, but I could not get them after the buses leave or it would be considered abandonment, and would I please stop getting so upset about it! Yeah... I wrote an email to the superintendent today about opening up the other lot (which would mean roping off that section so students wouldn't be there, and I volunteered to do that daily). I doubt I'll hear back. If not, invitations to come pick up my kids with me goes to every news station in San Diego.

09/14/15 @ 11:52am: Showed up to a locked gate and no one there. I have a deficit of emotional energy to deal with this. I'm starting to get stomach aches when getting my kids to and from school.

@3:05pm: Sent to the Office of Quality Assurance just now:

To Whom It May Concern:

For the last six school days (including this morning) there has only been one morning my kids had safe, accessible access to get to Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School (west campus). That was Friday when the Vice Principal stood at the gate to let in kids in wheelchairs. If he is not there (like this Monday morning) then we are forced into the street past a red curb to get into the school. My son ran into the street as he has some behavioral and emotional issues and was almost hit by a car.

As for pick up in the afternoons I have NEVER had safe, accessible access to get my kids since the handicap parking lot turns into a parking space for buses which completely cuts off that lot. And it's the only lot for the west campus. I was told by the principal that she does not have the authority to move the buses and allow access to the special needs drop off/parking spaces.

In order to avoid the buses blocking the school lot I have been forced to pick up my children half an hour early, and even then I still get blocked in and must wait with my children until 15 minutes after school gets out. I was told in no uncertain terms that pulling them out early is bad, but that showing up when the handicapped parking is available is also bad as it's after the pick up time and I could be accused of abandonment.

(There is no curb access from the handicapped parking on the street. So there's a blue curb and handicap sign but no way to get up that curb with a wheelchair! But I've been informed that that is a city issue, and not your problem. But once again, there's no access!)

Why is this a problem now? Well, many of us who have children with physical disabilities (I have two such children this year), had bus services for the last several years which provided safe and accessible access to school. But all of the families who have opted in to this school known for their services and community for special needs children (who make up 30% of the student body) lost our bus services this year. Without bus services and without a way to get our children to and from school since they are not able-bodied, we are stuck without options. The ONLY option I've been given is to attend another school.


Alexis Wesley

@ 4:26 pm: There is no curb access from the handicap street spot! Also the only crosswalk which is way out of the way doesn't have access at the end of it and you have to go into the street to get onto the sidewalk. The principal suggested I park on the street with the other parents while the handicap lot is blocked, as if we had a flying wheelchair! When I pointed out that there was no access to the sidewalk and I couldn't get the wheelchair to the school from the handicap spot she said that that was the city's problem. So today I complained to the city because that will just fix everything... Not!

09/15/15 @ 9:26am: The principal was at the gate letting in special needs kids today. My daily morning worry/stress stomach ache was unnecessary.

@ 6:19pm: Handicap lot was still bus parking so my daughter's aide had to walk the kids down the street where I illegally parked in an alley so I could safely load them in the car with enough room to navigate the wheelchair. Pretty much it sucked.

09/16/15: I drop my kids off at school (vice principal at the gate!), have a meeting with my Parent Support Liaison who is sending emails to transportation and special ed dept today, stop by Target to buy a couple lunch boxes for the kids, and get home to find that EIGHT NIT KITS FOR THE WOMEN'S SHELTER HAVE BEEN FUNDED!!! Thank you!!! What a great morning!

09/17/15: The bad news is that if my kid had an emergency we'll be blocked in because transportation illegally blocks the handicap parking and exit. But the good news is, there's a sign! (/s)
Note how the only handicap access is not available from 3:15-4:15, yet school gets out at 3:45 and pulling kids out early is truant and getting them late is abandonment! What is another option for safe accessible access to our special needs children? The answer is screw you!

09/21/15 The response she received from the transportation department in regards to possible changes and solutions to provide every disabled child with safe access, and remember while you're reading this, they (the school, district, and transportation) are "working with her":

Dear Ms. Wesley, Thank you for bringing up your concerns about our bus loading zones at Lindbergh. Transportation takes student safety very seriously and I would like to answer your concerns and let you know why the loading zone is set up as it is today. The bus loading zone at one time encompassed the entire curb line in front of the school with both Magnet buses and Special Ed buses unloading on both sides of the main walkway into the school. The school administration asked if we could modify the loading zone to allow parents access to the front of the school. After a review of the site it was determined we could free up a portion of the curb line in front of the school and safely place the Special Education buses in the staff parking lot because there would be no movement of staff vehicles in the lot when the buses arrive. At the end of the day the majority of the staff would be able to exit the lot without interfering with the loading of students near the gate. This move allowed the school to have a handicapped zone & a 3 minute parking zone in front for their parents. These separate bus loading zones have been in place and working great for years and it is the safest option available. You had mentioned about opening the gate at the end of the staff parking lot to allow buses on the playground. We looked at this option when we made the change. The blacktop does not have the structural integrity to accommodate a school bus so we cannot use it. Likewise having buses circle a loading zone would not be feasible either as it would cause the buses to run late on the Lindbergh routes as well as the routes those buses service afterward. You indicated that the parent drop off and bus loading zones were not separate. In fact they are separate the Magnet buses loading zone is on the north side of the main walkway and the parent drop of is on the south side. The bus and parent loading zones are also separated by a red curb as well. The Special Ed buses are located in the Staff Parking Lot. At Lindbergh the loading zones are designed so vehicles will not pass directly into the bus loading areas. The loading zone in front of the school is clearly marked “School Buses Only” and the Special Ed loading is in the staff parking lot which is clearly posted as “Staff Parking Only”. Parents should not be using the staff lot to load or unload students as parent parking has been provided at the front of the school on Mt. Albertine Ave. The layout of the school site does not allow for many variations of the loading zones or parent pick up points as there is only one curb line that is accessible due to the fact that Balboa Ave is all red curb because of the traveled portion of the roadway that makes it unsafe. I hope this answers your questions about the current conditions as well as gives you a little background on why the loading zones were placed where they are today. If you have additional questions feel free to contact me and I will do my best to provide those answers as well. I appreciate you taking the time to voice your concerns and our staff will continue to look at the issues and work with the school to provide the safest options for our students. Thank you, Scott

This was her response:
This right here is my problem. You say parents should not be using the staff lot as if there is any other safe or accessible option. You say "parent parking has been provided at the front of the school on Mt. Albertine Ave" as if my kids are able-bodied and don't require wheelchair access. There is no curb cut out for wheelchairs on Mt. Albertine and when I told the school that they agreed it was a problem--just the city's problem. If you don't move the buses I can't get to my kids. Period. I invite you to come pick them up with me sometime and see for yourself.

09/22/15 @9:26am: The final answer from the school is no. No, they will not provide a safe, accessible pick up for my kids. I spoke briefly to the principal this morning and she told me transportation refuses to move the buses, even move them up enough to let cars out. She then shrugged and said "it IS a staff parking lot" like that label made it okay there was no other handicap access and students clearly used the lot as it was the only handicap drop off. Her tone made me want to cry. She thinks she put in a good effort by asking and having all those meetings with me and oh well it's just not going to work out. She's done.

My stomach is in knots, but my kids need a lawyer. Any San Diego recommendations?

@ 12:15pm: Yeah it's not about how they are set up, but how the school handles it. Like there is a lot the buses could pull up into, but they say they can't/won't. Then why can't the special needs families pull up there? Because they don't want to mess with it (lock and unlock that gate). That's just a school that doesn't care.

09/23/15: Facebook is becoming my little record of wrongs. We arrived to school this morning to a locked gate and special needs kids walking into the street to enter the building. We entered the staff gate which at first I thought may have been opened so kids wouldn't be in the street but we got nasty looks when we did and someone ran up and locked it behind us so I don't think it was left open for our safety--just by accident.

09/24/15: Got an email from the transportation operations supervisor this morning that made me cry buckets. (Long email short: He said to use the parking that's inaccessible.) It also encouraged me to finally do the press release. I hate that it's come to this. Why can't my kids have a safe way to get to school without calling the press? I love this school, why do I have to fight it?

09/24/15: Daddy took the kids to school this morning. The gate was locked. A person who matched the description of the principal said he arrived too late for gate access. As they were speaking it was 9:10. School starts at 9:15. They were not late for class, just for access.