Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Special-needs busing ends


Hearing officer rules it's not a right

By William Croyle
Enquirer staff writer

ERLANGER - The Erlanger-Elsmere school district no longer has to bus children after school to Redwood School and Rehabilitation Center, a hearing officer has ruled.

The district has been providing the service for about eight years for special-needs children.

Two families argued Sept. 2 that the district was required to provide the transportation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The district argued the service is, and always has been, a courtesy, and it could no longer afford it.

On Oct. 18, the service will end, Superintendent Mike Sander said Monday.

The decision, handed down Friday, has ramifications locally and statewide, Sander said.

"Had it been ruled the other way, a lot of districts in the state would have had to find ways to transport kids," said Sander. "We'd have had to find ways to transport 40 to 50 special-education kids all over the area, some even to Cincinnati."

John and Teresa Brolley's 14-year-old daughter, Maria, has cerebral palsy and has been bused to Redwood by the district each day after school since kindergarten.

The family and their attorney argued that service should continue because it's a "related service" - as defined under the act - to the special-education services Maria receives at Tichenor Middle School. They said that, without services she receives at Redwood in using a computer, she would not be able to communicate in school.

"As trite as it may sound, you win some and you lose some," John Brolley said of the ruling. "We have to focus on our daughter's education under a new set of circumstances, and we can't afford to waste our energy on anger or resentment."

The Brolleys' attorney, Shanda Spurlock of the Children's Law Center, said John Brolley's nice-guy attitude may have backfired. She said one of the main reasons the hearing officer gave for the decision was that the Brolleys have never complained and have always been complimentary of the district.

"Unfortunately, I think the fact that they tried to work hard with the district in getting this resolved and didn't complain - it worked against them," said Spurlock.

The district's attorney, Lawson Walker, disagreed.

"I think the core reason (for the decision) is that the hearing officer agreed with the district that the transportation was a courtesy and not a requirement," said Walker.

Nancy Nusz, director of special education for Spencer County Public Schools, heard the case. She said Monday she couldn't comment on the proceedings.

The other family Nusz ruled against was Allen King and his son, Kyle. King said last month that he'd have to pull Kyle out of Redwood if the hearing officer ruled against the families with children who have special needs.

King was unavailable Monday for comment.

John Brolley said they have not decided whether they will appeal.

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E-mail wcroyle@enquirer.com




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