Kershaw Co. School District transportation issues cut educational time for special-needs student

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Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 7:38 PM EST
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KERSHAW COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - S.C. Department of Education records show the Kershaw County School District cut the educational time for at least one special needs student this May and August through a breakdown in its transportation system.

There may be more students involved.

WIS obtained two written decisions from the SCDE through Stephanie Crow, the mother of a 7-year-old student, Laura Crow. The decisions were in response to Stephanie’s complaints.

Laura is diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, leaving her largely non-verbal and subject to seizures.

The documents outlined how the district illegally shortened Laura’s school days and access to educational services through either late arrivals to school or removing Laura from class. The impacted days included May 23–27 and August 1–19 of this year.

The documents show Laura lost 40 to 60 minutes of school time per impacted day.

Stephanie told WIS she first became aware of the missed time after the school nurse notified her on Aug. 3 that Laura missed a 1:50 treatment session despite the school not ending until 2:30.

Crow filed a complaint on Aug. 5 with the SCDE, triggering the first written decision. The decision reads in part:

On August 5, 2022, the Director of Special Services sent a District-wide email which read: “Principals, as we begin the school year, I would like to remind everyone that students that receive special needs transportation are to be dismissed at the same time as all other students in our buildings. We must ensure that all students are taught bell to bell.”

Crow filed a second complaint on Aug. 22, after discovering Laura was arriving at school up to an hour late.

Stephanie told WIS she put a phone in Laura’s bag to track her arrival.

“I feel like I can’t trust them, what person buys a phone I can’t trust [the district], what person goes and buys a phone and puts it in their backpack and tracks their kid? I mean, I did it because I’m afraid the school district isn’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing. I mean, that’s not normal,” she said.

The SCDE issued its decisions on Oct. 5 and Oct. 22, finding Laura’s days had been shortened and she’d lost the educational time.

The SCDE mandated a list of corrective actions, including providing Laura with make-up educational time and determining which other students may have been impacted.

The agency gave the district a year to come into compliance. As of the morning of Nov. 21, Stephanie said she’d only received “radio silence.”

After WIS contacted the district about the story on Nov. 21, Stephanie sent WIS a text stating the district had provided her with paperwork to begin the make-up process.

“I might be construed as a bit of a bully for pushing this and for fighting for Laura constantly. But that’s my job as her mom. My job is to hold people accountable when they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. She doesn’t have a voice, but I do and I will use it to fight for her,” Stephanie said.

District spokesperson Becky Bean sent a statement reading:

“KCSD has addressed this transportation issue by requesting and receiving an additional special needs bus from the South Carolina Department of Education to shorten the length of ride time and ensure an on-time arrival to school.

We are aware of the corrective actions listed in the Letters of Resolution and will address all areas of noncompliance for this student and any other students impacted within the given timeframe.”

It’s unclear how many students may have been impacted by the shortened days.

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