A strong support group is important for David. He has been bullied, ridiculed, and berated at school and often struggles to go. However, he has a strong support system here and even when the mornings are tough and his parents are at work, he can use his support group to transition to the school day, but this often means that he has missed the bus. Due to his close location to the school and nearby family, he can request a ride, bike, or walk to school. Without this option, he will not be able to attend school on many days.
Making friends and creating a support group among students is especially difficult for kids like David. Living and attending school with the same kids since Kindergarten has helped David navigate these interactions and helped the other students learn who he is and how to support him. To move him to another school, where he will be forced to ride an ESE bus, have his school day extended due to the additional transition time, and dump him in a high school where he does not have a social network to support him will predictably increase his shut down reactions, decrease his ability to work through coping skills and attend school even when the bus has been missed, and put him in a situation as the outsider that is often a position high school students attack and bully.
The unique after-school activities offered by his zoned school have provided motivation for his academics and a place to socialize with like minded kids on a regular basis. After all, high school is a time to explore social groups and develop the social skills needed as an adult. Having attended the local schools since kindergarten, David has managed to develop a core support group among the students.
Now, in the middle of a pandemic that is already causing immense anxiety, the Santa Rosa County School District has decided that there is no room for kids like him at the local high school and they will be busing them to another high school approximately 30 minutes away that has one main access road prone to wrecks. David attends regular classes and has the support of a resource room. He does not require additional medical equipment or facilities that would warrant the need for a special school placement. In fact, the district has offered services at his current high school for many years. They are not suggesting to redraw district lines to accommodate the student population, but are instead singling out students with David's exceptionalities to remove them from the school.
This is a David vs. Goliath situation. The school district has many resources that parents do not have. We believe that the district policy violates the Individuals with Disabilities Act Free and Appropriate Education and Least Restrictive Environment provisions. T.R. v. Kingwood Township, 205 F.3d 572 (3rd Cir. 2000) states, "that the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is the one that, ... educates the disabled child...in the same school the child would attend if the child were not disabled." Based on past history and the opinions of professionals, forcing David to move away from his family and peer support groups and forcing an extended bus ride predictably places him at greater risk of bullying, mental health issues, and poor school attendance.
David needs your help to be able to defend his rights under the law. He already feels ostracized and unwanted. In David's own words, "I don't understand why I am being targeted just because I have disabilities. I have been with these kids for years and have a very deep bond with the kids and the school. Losing the chance to communicate with them is absolutely demoralizing. I have spent months worrying about this and worry that the isolation of being in a new, strange school, will cause me to be unable to function from the terror and the thought that they can do this again whenever they please." Please show him you care for and support him. The retainer for the lawyer is $3,000. Your donation is greatly appreciated. If you wish to donate directly on his behalf you can do so here: https://secure.lawpay.com/pages/gleasonlaw/trust . Please reference Santa Rosa Due Process Go Fund Me. Rebecca Hope of Gleason Hope Law is his lawyer. Standing up for David helps send a signal to all ESE kids that they matter, that the law matters, and that there is hope that justice will prevail.
- Brennan Justice
Organizer and beneficiary
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