Parents of special needs girl upset over school bus stop change

CENTER GROVE, Ind. - One family in Center Grove is challenging their special needs daughter's school district after changes were made to her bus stop.

Richard Cunningham said his family has been going back-and-forth with the school district since January.

"Jamie was born 1 pound, 3 ounces, 11 inches long. I was a stay at home dad for over 9 years. This is not right," Cunningham said.

Jamie, 16, has cerebral palsy and goes through a lengthy morning routine before she goes to school.  Her dad says that her bus used to back right up to their home to pick her up, but that stopped when a substitute driver filled in one day.

Since that day, the family said it was told the bus would no longer back into the driveway to pick Jamie up in her wheelchair.

"Nobody contacted us, nobody talked to us, nobody came out to evaluate the situation," Cunningham said. "You can't push anybody in gravel in a wheelchair. You just can't."

Now, the family pushes Jamie down their 35-yard gravel driveway every morning at 6:30 a.m. so she can board the bus. 

Despite meeting after meeting and phone call after phone call, no changes have been made.

"I'm done. I don't know what else to do. I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of talking to people," Cunningham said.

The Center Grove Community School Corporation told RTV6 that they make every effort to accommodate students, but the NTSB, Indiana State School Bus Committee, Indiana CDL manual, and Center Grove Transportation Department procedure all agree that backing up a school bus at a student stop is dangerous and should only be done at a student stop if no other alternative is available and if a student is already loaded onto the bus.

Cunningham says he's waiting to hear a compromise that will work.

"If a 16-year-old with (cerebral palsy) doesn't qualify for special needs services, then I'm at a loss. Somebody there needs to explain to me what a special needs situation is. Because I think we surpassed that," he said.

Cunningham said the school corporation offered the family a stipend to bring Jamie to school themselves, but he said that isn't an option since he and his wife, and Jamie's mother all work and have no way to pick her up after school.

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