Mother's complaint: Son denied bus monitor

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Dec. 7, 2012
Goodwin Elementary School, which Ester Gonzales's son, Evan, attends. Photo by Evan Pajer.
Goodwin Elementary School, which Ester Gonzales's son, Evan, attends. Photo by Evan Pajer.

An East Hartford mother has said she will appeal a decision that would deny her son, who has been diagnosed with autism, a monitor for his bus rides to and from school. The mother, Ester Gonzales, said she worries about her son being bullied on the bus.

Gonzales said that her son, Evan, has been diagnosed with mild to moderate symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. Evan, who is 9 years old, currently attends Goodwin Elementary School in East Hartford and rides the bus to and from school. Gonzales said that her son rarely speaks more than one or two words at a time, and has trouble expressing himself. "He cannot express his wants, needs, or if any harm has been done to him," she said.

Gonzales said that her son takes the bus home from school and that in previous years, he was assigned to a bus with other students who have autism. This year, she said, her son was assigned to a bus with non-disabled students. Gonzales said that this year, her son has had at least one incident where he stood up from his seat on the bus. She said that if her son is given a bus monitor, he would no longer stand up from his seat. “A lot of autistic children know routine, and if you stick them to that routine, they will not get out of their seats,” Gonzales said. “Once he knows his routine, he will stay in his seat.”

Gonzales said that currently her son is being strapped into his seat with a harness while on the bus. “Every day, my son is strapped into his seat with a four-point harness,” she said. Gonzales said she was concerned about her son being in the harness. “If something goes wrong on the bus, and the driver is disabled, he won't be able to get out,” she said. Gonzales said she was also concerned about her son being bullied while on the bus.

Gonzales said that her son had a yearly PPT (Parents, Professionals and Teachers) meeting on Oct 2. PPT meetings are used by school districts to determine the needs of students with disabilities. Gonzales said she was told that the district would not provide her son with a bus monitor. Gonzales said she was told that "they don't have any autistic children in the district with a monitor on the bus,” and that the district did not have funds availible to hire a monitor. Gonzales said she was told that hiring a monitor would cost $6,000 a year.

Gonzales said her next step is to appeal to the State Board of Education to overturn the decision made at the PPT meeting. She said she has gathered signatures from other parents in the district who have children with autism and support the addition of bus monitors. “If the hearing does not allow him a monitor, I am going to withdraw my son from the school district,” Gonzales said. Gonzales said she may also take legal action if her appeal is denied. "I want someone else to see what I'm seeing, because there is no way these children should be left alone until they can communicate effectively,” Gonzales said.

East Hartford Superintendent of Schools Nathan Quesnel declined to comment on Gonzales's case and on the practices used by the school district for disabled children, other than to say that the district uses the PPT process. “We are bound by state law with special education,” he said. “This is a nonsense story.”


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