UPDATE: Good news! Following talks with the Pennsylvania Council for the Blind, the school district will allow an “orientation and mobility instructor” to appraise Deven’s situation, and possibly allow him to get off the bus on his own (with some caveats). The update is here.
Readers — This story about a blind kid who doesn’t want to be babied by his (lawsuit-fearing) school is all about making a Free-Range Kid into an invalid:
Born blind, Deven Phillips has been in Nazareth Area schools his entire life. His mother, Paula Smith, has made every effort to raise her 13-year-old son to be independent. But after a year and a half of getting off his school bus unattended, the school district informed his mother that policy must change.
Briefly: Deven had been driven “curb to curb” until sixth grade. Then, at last!, he was ready to join his peers on regular school bus. For the past year and a half now he’d been let off at his bus stop, same as any other kid. But one day this winter, when snow and ice blocked the regular stop, he got a little turned around when he got off and the bus driver had to tell him which direction to walk. That was all it took for his school to go nuts with worry, either for his safety, or its own liability. School Superintendent Dennis Riker wrote to the mom:
“The major concern with the bus stop is Deven’s orientation when he exits the bus. … Therefore, it’s my recommendation to our transportation office that an individual be required to be at the bus stop to assist Deven, or our transportation department will provide curb-to-curb service. Both of these options, supported by the (school district’s) attorney, would be in place on a permanent basis, even when the inclement weather season ends.”
Yes, even when it’s nice outside, the proud and independent young man will be treated like he’s helpless.
This story hits close to home for me. My husband’s dad went blind at 16 and his parents fought to have him stay in his mainstream school, where he’d been a failing student. He struggled to finish, and went on to law school where he graduated…valedictorian.
Meantime, Deven’s school is teaching him this life lesson: “You think you can make in the world, but you can’t.” Lovely. – L