Mom upset after district suddenly denies son access to door - - Columbia, South Carolina

Mom upset after district suddenly denies son access to door

Christian Thomas and his mother, Lisa Christian Thomas and his mother, Lisa

Lisa Thomas feels defeated. She was supposed to be able to drop her son off at the special needs access entrance at Furman Middle School Friday morning, but that's not what happened.

"They said the office had called and said, 'Do not allow Ms. Thomas with her child through here,'" said Thomas.

Instead, 11-year-old Christian Thomas was forced to use the front doors to get to his classroom.  He needs a walker because he suffers from a growth disorder called Trisomy 9-18.

"You actually have to come all the way down the main hallway, and turn to the left and go halfway down that hallway," said Thomas.

There's a circular access on the side of the building closer to Christian's classroom.

"The door is bigger," said Thomas. "You're able to get walkers through it. It has a rail on it.  It leads straight into his classroom."

Inches make a big difference for a boy who fell in 2005 on a padded floor, causing bleeding on his brain.

"We almost lost him," said his mother. "We stayed in Columbia. Went through three different brain surgeries, shunt replacement. If he falls on this concrete, it could take a matter of minutes before he dies."

District transportation officials told Thomas the entrance was a hazard, causing traffic to stack.

"I don't understand how it blocks traffic when you come completely off the roadway," said Thomas.

Principal Maria Newton-Tabon told her she could use the entrance, but an aide then denied access Friday morning.

WIS tried to get answers, contacting the principal and the district office.  We asked if the entrance is used at all and for an on-camera interview. 

We waited 5 hours for a response.  Finally WIS was told that access on the side of the building isn't a special needs access.  It's used by all students who are bused. 

The district says each child's needs are different, and they're reviewing the drop-off policy.  Thomas said her son loves the program, but she kept Christian from class Friday.

"How do you explain to a special needs child that everything you do is for their safety?" she asked.  "They don't understand that.  All they know is what makes them happy, and school makes him happy."

Thomas says she's uncertain what Monday will bring.

District officials have told Thomas they'll send a bus for Christian and he'll have access to the special needs entrance.  Thomas wants all the special needs students to have access to those doors.

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