Done Playing Nice

The bussing issue reared its ugly head again.

For anyone who is new to my blog – or doesn’t follow my tweet feed – the Monster is bussed from our house to his elementary school and back each day.  The school he attends is not our zone school, which is five minutes away and roughly in our neighborhood, but all the way across the city.  His bus ride, on a good day, is somewhere between thirty-five and forty-five minutes.

On Monday morning, the Monster’s bus failed to pick him up.  Adding to the pressure, that morning was his “graduation” from pre-K, and the wife had already left to take R to her parents so we could both attend the ceremony.  By the time the clock ticked past 9 AM – the time his school starts – I had decided to load him into my car and drive him there myself, rather than popping by my office for a few to check in on my team.

Long-time readers – or those who look back – know that the Monster has had a history of bussing issues.  Yesterday was the thirteenth time this year that the bus was sufficiently late, or did not show at all, that I felt it necessary to email the city school transportation director to complain about performance.  My email was the usual harsh diatribe that folks are used to from me, including a direct insistance on a copy of their contract with Durham School Services (the contractor whose bus it is) and the contact information for their performance bondholder to file a formal complaint.  My email finished with the very succinct and clear (and verbatim):

FIX THIS OR I WILL.

I don’t think it gets clearer than that.  You would think that when a parent writes in that this is the thirteenth time that there’s been cause to complain in nine months of school, that the child is on an IEP and that there is a clear danger to the services being adequately provided under said IEP due to bussing issues, that someone would take it seriously.

Did Baltimore City Public Schools respond to my email?  No.

Did Durham respond?  No, not officially.  The bus aide did call the wife to let her know that it had been a “mix up” on her end – that she’d thought the wife had mentioned we’d be driving the Monster to school that day and she had told the driver to skip our stop – but no one from Durham themselves contacted us.

So Durham did call this morning at 7:38 AM to tell us that a different bus would be picking the Monster up, and that they could be up to twenty minutes late (meaning a pickup at 8:38, still guaranteeing that he’d be late for school… but I digress).  So we waited.

Surprise! No bus.  By 8:58, forty minutes after his pick up time, there was still no sign of the bus.  I again put the Monster into my car and drove him to school.  Once there, I met briefly with the IEP coordinator (who admitted she can’t do anything about it), and then headed off to the office.

Obviously, this entailed another email…. or two… or four…  I mailed Dr. Alonso, the outgoing CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools to vent my anger at a fourteenth occurrence of a bussing issue in this school year and over the lack of response to yesterday’s email.  I mailed WJZ, WBAL and WMAR to see if anyone would be interested in investigating just what Baltimore City Public Schools is doing vis-a-vis the bussing and ensuring that both money’s spent wisely and that students are getting to classes on time to learn something.  (Because, honestly, I can’t be the only parent dealing with this.)  I emailed the education reporter at the Baltimore Sun with a similar nudge.  And I mailed the head of transportation and his deputy.

The bus did not appear this morning.  This is the fourteenth time that I have had cause to write to you regarding the bussing issues.

I have not heard from your office regarding this matter, despite my having emailed yesterday at 11:30 AM.

Obviously, you want me to fix this.  Fine.  I shall do so.  When you look back on this, please remember that I tried to be constructive and work with you to fix the bussing issues, and it was your decision to not respond to me that put me in the position of taking appropriate steps to enforce my son’s IEP.

So.  Since these mails went out around 9:30 this morning, the following has happened:

  • The Monster’s IEP Coordinator has emailed me to ask for an “FAPE Meeting” to discuss his bussing with the IEP team.  What she can do now that she couldn’t think of this morning, I do not yet know.
  • The Special Education Liaison for the Baltimore City Public Schools contacted my wife, with information on how to get a “reimbursement” for any day that we can “prove” that we took the Monster to school instead of Durham.  Really?  I want what they paid Durham for my doing their job.  Stick that in your craw.
  • I’m preparing to file a formal complaint with the Maryland State Department of Education regarding Baltimore City’s failure to transport my child as per his IEP.  Fourteen days is nearly 10% of the school year – that cannot be considered reasonable by anyone’s imagination, and what about how it impacted his ability to learn, on mornings when it was that late?  What’s making up for the services missed?  All of his therapists are contractors with very limited time in school.
  • The local operations director for Durham School Services is going to ride the bus tomorrow. Now, aside from the obvious – what good is that going to do on the last day of school – and more important questions – like where the f*** has this guy been all year while this has been going on?! – the only thing that could possibly come out of this is entertainment for the wife when I go off on whomever this is when the bus arrives.

We are our children’s best advocates, even more so when our children cannot speak for themselves, as the Monster cannot.

I am angry that they are ignoring a legitimate issue that is hindering my child’s progress.  And they are going to regret making me angry.

Don’t f*ck with an Autism Parent.

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