Blind woman sues school that keeps kids off bus

A blind woman has sued the Atlanta Public Schools, claiming that she’s unable to accompany her children on a half-mile walk to school and the school system should be required to provide bus transportation for them, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Daffanie Todd, 37, is a single mother of three school-age children. Her eyesight finally gave out in 2013. She sued the APS in order to force the district to provide a bus to take her children to school, since she considers the road between her house and her 5-year-old daughter’s school, Continental Colony Elementary School, to be unsafe. It’s a busy street, and it has no sidewalk. Her daughter hasn’t been able to attend school this school year, which started on August 9.

Ms Todd claims that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires the school district to provide bus transportation for her children, even though her children have no disabilities. Last week her lawyers claimed in the federal lawsuit that the Atlanta Public Schools’ failure to “reasonably accommodate” her and her children amounted to a violation of the ADA.

But the school district says it doesn’t have to provide transportation to her children because they live too close to the school under Georgia law.

“Ms Todd’s children, the APS students, do not have a disability,” APS was quoted as saying in a statement by 11 Alive News (NBC affiliate). “We will continue to work with Ms Todd to identify other community-based resources for her family.”

So now a federal judge is taking the case under advisement. In doing so, however, he criticized both sides for allowing the case to proceed this far, all the way to a courtroom, before it could be worked out by other means.

“The potential for abuse presents an untenable scenario for a district with limited resources to accommodate any number of requests by disabled parents derivatively applying their personal rights to their children,” the Journal-Constitution quoted a school district spokesperson as saying. And apparently, that’s enough reason for the school district to fight this lawsuit in court.

“I wouldn’t feel safe sending a 5-year-old down a dark street in a winter’s morning, trying to navigate a place with no sidewalks and cars speeding past. That’s not safe. And that’s not a reasonable accommodation for Ms Todd or her family,” the station quoted Craig Goodmark, an attorney for Ms Todd, as saying.

But if her children had their own bus stop, APS said, it couldn’t prevent non-disabled children, even those of non-disabled parents, from also boarding the bus, which could lead to overcrowded buses. But ultimately, this is a lawsuit about the ADA: Does it give rights and privileges to the non-disabled children of disabled parents?

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.