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District 75

Schoolbook

Avonte Oquendo's Death Hits Home for Special Needs Families

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The 14-year-old boy disappeared from a public school in October and his remains were positively identified Tuesday, after being discovered last week in the East River. To those with children like Avonte, some say his death is like losing a family member.

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Schoolbook

Walcott Refines Safety Procedures After Child's Disappearance

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced several changes to safety protocols, in the Department of Education's most explicit acknowledgment that changes are needed following the disappearance of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo last month from his Long Island City school.

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Schoolbook

In Case of Missing Boy, Concerns that Shared School Space Was a Factor

Friday, October 11, 2013

How could a school created for special education students lose one of its own? Some special ed experts say the fact that most programs for special needs kids share space with other schools makes security a real challenge.

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Schoolbook

Family of Missing Boy Claims School Was Negligent

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A lawyer for the family of the mute, 14-year-old boy with autism who has been missing since Friday, said a security guard may have allowed him to leave his school, and that the school didn't act quickly enough to find him.

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Schoolbook

Parents of Special Needs Kids Concerned About Missing Boy

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

As police continue to search for a 14-year-old boy with autism who has been missing since Friday, some parents of children with special needs question how the vulnerable student could have left his school unattended.

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Schoolbook

20 School Buildings That Sent Most Children to ERs

Monday, September 16, 2013

WNYC looked at thousands of calls made from public schools between 2005 and 2010 for what 911 dispatchers call "emotionally disturbed persons." This data was obtained by Legal Services of New York. At the 20 buildings with the most calls, it appears 16 of them house District 75 schools, which are special education schools for kids with the most serious needs, those having autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, physical impairments or numerous other needs.

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Schoolbook

Sending Disruptive Students to the E.R. Worries Docs, Advocates

Monday, September 16, 2013

A WNYC investigation of 911 calls made from schools reveals that buildings with the highest rates of calls were likely to house District 75 schools, those with the mission of educating students with severe special education needs.  There were thousands of calls during the six-year-period. Some of these schools -- where one might imagine people are trained to handle emotional outbursts and aggressive behavior -- sent troubled students to hospital emergency rooms at alarming rates. Hear what doctors and families have to say in this report.

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Schoolbook

Travel Program Gives Students Newfound Independence

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Department of Education program gives students with disabilities the skills to walk the streets of New York safely and take public transportation on their own. For one high school senior in Queens, the training has meant she can commute to school this year without an adult escort for the first time in her life.

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Schoolbook

Autism Numbers Spike in Special Ed District

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The number of children with autism increased by 10 percent this year in District 75, the city's program for children with the most serious needs, according to preliminary data obtained by Schoolbook.

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Schoolbook

Bus Strike Took Toll on Special Needs Kids

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A parent advocate for special-needs kids said they don’t deserve pity; they deserve respect which they did not get during the school bus strike. Their missing services weren’t tracked. Their legal rights were violated for five weeks straight and, she wrote, their progress for the school year was stunted. What do you think the city could have done better for these kids?

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Transportation Nation

Ongoing NYC School Bus Strike Frustrates Special Education Families

Friday, January 25, 2013

A wheelchair-accessible taxi (photo by Kate Hinds)

(Beth Fertig - New York, SchoolBook) A day after New York City said it would pay car companies directly to transport eligible children with special needs to school, parents and teachers say the system, like so much else related to school bus strike, has presented challenges.

“They have to go up to the school to get this voucher form that they have to fill out but now when they call the cab companies in their various neighborhoods the cab companies don’t know anything about it,” said Joseph Williams, president of the Citywide District 75 Council and the father of a son with autism.

The Department of Education announced Wednesday an arrangement with the Taxi and Limousine Commission that allows some families of children with disabilities to avoid having to pay first for car service and then wait for reimbursement. The D.O.E. said it would pay the car services, to ease the hardship for families during the school bus strike

The problem, many families say, is that the car services don’t know about the new payment system.

D.O.E. spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said the T.L.C. lined up the participating livery car companies, which is why families are supposed to fill out a form at school, or at their local committee on special education, to obtain a taxi voucher. They’re then given the name of approved vendors.

But Williams said he heard complaints from two different parents Thursday that word had not spread to the car companies. So he called a couple himself to see what was happening.

“I spoke to the dispatcher, ‘Do you know anything about it?’ I spoke to his boss and he said he hadn’t heard anything about it. And this was two car companies in Brooklyn,” he said, adding that he alerted the superintendent of District 75, which serves thousands of severely disabled students who normally depend on the yellow buses.

Beth Brady, a special education teacher at a District 75 middle school in Washington Heights, P138M, said she has a class of 12 students, most of whom use wheelchairs. But she said only one of them has been making it to school since the strike began because he’s ambulatory and lives closer to the school than the others.

“I was making a lot of phone calls today to share that information with them” she said, of the free taxi vouchers for lower income families. “They were asking which companies take the vouchers and we don’t have a list of that. So we’re still working on what cabs and limos would even take the vouchers. That’s a missing piece.”

Brady also said many parents can’t afford to take time away from work to accompany their children to and from school by either mass transit or a taxi. Her students come from both Manhattan and the Bronx.

Free Yellow Cabs for Children in Wheelchairs

Meanwhile, an umbrella group for some of the small yellow cab companies is offering free wheelchair accessible taxis to disabled children during the strike.

Mark Longo, information director for Taxi Club Management, said: “I’m probably getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 phone calls every hour” from families looking for transportation help.

Longo said Taxi Club Management has about 130 of the city’s 233 wheelchair accessible yellow cabs among its fleets, and that C.E.O. Gene Friedman felt strongly about wanting to help the city’s students.

Longo said families should contact him via email to make arrangements in advance at mark@taxiclubmanagement.com or call the city’s Accessible Dispatch Service, (646) 599-9999.

However, he said, Taxi Club Management doesn’t have enough cars to meet the demand and services can’t be provided outside the five boroughs. He said he is working to line up alternatives.

Transportation is especially complicated for children with the most serious disabilities because they often travel far from home to get appropriate services.

Michelle Noris’s nine year-old son, Abraham, attends the Henry Viscardi School on Long Island because he has cerebral palsy and a movement disorder called chorea. He has epileptic seizures and uses a wheelchair to get around, and a feeding tube for nourishment. The fourth grader has been taking a small wheelchair-accessible bus to school since first grade, with three other children and a matron.

Now, Noris said, she and her husband are splitting transportation duties each morning, taking Abraham to Long Island in their minivan and getting their other child to his neighborhood elementary school. She said they’re reimbursed 55 cents for every mile they travel with Abraham in their car which means return trips aren’t covered.

“It’s a 19.1 mile trip each way,” she explained. “We do it twice a day. So that works out to about $21 a day in reimbursement which just about covers the gasoline.”

These trips consume four hours each day, and since she’s paid by the hour as a professional engineer that means she’s making less money.

“They’ve offered that they would pay for car service but again, the car service they only pay while he’s in the car and of course we have to go with him, no one lets a nine-year-old child into a car service,” she said. “So that would be even more difficult financially because then I would be in Albertson, Long Island, and how would I get home?”

Noris and other families worry about the children with special needs who aren’t making it to school because of these complications. In addition to lost school time, many are also missing out on related services such as speech and occupational therapy.

Waiting on the Labor Board

The city is trying to get more school buses on the road by encouraging companies that employ drivers who aren’t striking to take a CPR course and four-hour training program. This way, they can cover for striking escorts.

Some of those bus companies employ escorts in the striking union, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Other bus companies are picking up more students than normal. And some are training replacement workers.

Meanwhile, the head of the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office, James Paulsen, said he has finished his investigation of the bus companies’ complaints against Local 1181 and their request for an injunction to stop the strike. But Paulsen said he could not make his recommendations public. They were sent to the NLRB’s Division of Advice in Washington, D.C., where lawyers will consider the matter.

A decision is likely next week, he said.

If the NLRB sides with the bus companies, it will go to federal district court in Brooklyn to seek an injunction.

Beth Fertig is a senior reporter at WNYC. Follow her on Twitter

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Schoolbook

Ongoing School Bus Strike Frustrates Special Education Families

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Despite the city's efforts to help families of disabled students during the school bus strike, some parents say the process is complicated and they are struggling with the disruption.

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Schoolbook

Attendance Rises Slightly on Day Two of School Bus Strike

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Attendance rose slightly on the second day of the bus strike, but it was still just about 62 percent at schools for students with severe disabilities who rely most heavily on yellow buses.

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Schoolbook

In District 75, Using the Arts in Everyday Academics

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

With help from a federal grant, special education teachers in New York City are learning how to better incorporate the arts into academics. They're getting new strategies through a program called Everyday Arts for Special Education, which runs on the basic principal that students need to have fun in order to be fully engaged with learning.

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Schoolbook

Do High-Needs Students Affect a School's Grade?

Monday, February 13, 2012

New York City's latest plan to reform special education services encourages public school principals to take more of the neediest students. An analysis by WNYC shows how these students are not distributed evenly across all schools. The analysis also found that high schools with the best report card grades often take smaller percentages of the special education students who are the toughest to educate.

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Schoolbook

Parents Push for More Opportunities for Special Ed Students

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Manhattan middle school student stood up at a meeting of parents of special education children to say she had been denied participation in an after-school program. A lack of activities where District 75 students could have more opportunities to socialize, as well as a lack of occupational therapists, were among the complaints made to the Department of Education.

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