This morning I send this email to everyone who I could think of–teachers, school administrators, district administrators and the bus company (I will modify this email slightly and send it every day to my list of PTB until the issue is resolved. At last, for Julia that is.):
My daughter, Julia Schanker, is a sophomore at West High School and has been late to school everyday since school began.
Julia is on the autism spectrum and has an IEP. This year her IEP specifically states the she be on time to school. Badger Bus is responsible for getting Julia to school in the morning. Badger Bus has been late every morning since school has started. To date, Julia has accrued six (6) tardy reports for first period during the first eight (8) days of school. (There was no tardy report on the first day of school and I drove her to school one day.)
Last year, Julia was late for school every day until November 13, because Badger Bus was figuring out how to get her to school on time. In order to get her to school on time last year, I wrote to many of you asking for help. I am not willing to wait until November this year.
On the first day of school this year, I asked the driver why she was late. Her answer was, “there was traffic on Park Street.” For anyone using Park Street on weekday mornings, traffic is not an unusual occurrence. This Monday, when I called Badger Bus, Bob the dispatcher, told me, “[t]his is only the fourth day of school.” Today is Friday, the eighth day of school and the bus was late again today.
Julia’s untimely arrival at school is disturbing on a number of levels.
1. On the personal level, students on the autism spectrum, like Julia, need extra time to prepare for and reach their classrooms. They need time to settle down in a classroom and they need regularity in their days to have successful days. Worrying about getting to school, rushing to leave lunch and coat at a locker and racing to a classroom is a recipe for an unproductive day and eventually inappropriate behavior.
2. Legally, transportation is in Julia’s IEP and thus West High School is not in compliance with Julia’s IEP which is protected by the IDEA. The IEP team also agreed that being on time to school is important for Julia’s education, thus, the district is contractually obligated to get her to school on time. Finally, Julia is being denied FAPE.
3. School wide, Principal Karen Boran sent a strong letter to the West community last week about excessive student tardiness. She has initiated appropriate consequences for excessive and repeated tardiness to classes. Badger Bus is not in compliance with West High School Policy.
4. Finally, on Tuesday, when I dropped Julia off at West at 8:20 (ten minutes after first period began) there were three Badger Bus vehicles dropping off special ed students. I saw another vehicle driving up as I pulled away. At the time, I wondered if tardiness was not a Julia issue but an issue shared by many, many students at West High School who receive Special Education Services and are transported to school by Badger Bus. Indeed, this idea was confirmed by Bob the dispatcher when I spoke with him later this week. He told me that he had a pile of complaints from parents and a large number of those complaints were regarding West High School.
I look forward to hearing back from many of you over the next few days and to addressing this challenge for Julia and for all students receiving special education services quickly and effectively.