Parents fight for child to stay at home school

Posted at 7:06 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-27 01:32:23-04

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition called "Ryken belongs in our community." It's to fight the Gilbert Public School District’s plan to bus children with special needs to specialized classrooms, which move from school to school every year.

One parent said her child has changed schools six times in the last six years, so much that it had changed the child's personality.

Sarah McTighe, Ryken's mother, described him as a loving and energetic boy, who is full of heart and life.

When you asked him if he liked his school he shouted, "Yeah!" When you asked him what he liked best about school, he said "friends."

McTighe said Ryken was fitting in very well in his classroom and was quite popular.

"Everybody knows Ryken, not just his classmates. They're all high-fiving him. They say, ‘Hi Ryken, hi Ryken, can I sit by him?’ They love him there, he loves to go to school with his sister. She shows him off, she's so proud of him," McTighe said.

Just in the last few months she had seen her child make good academic progress.

"From his ABC's to saying A for Apple, he does the A-Z's really well," McTighe said.

She was extremely concerned when she learned the district planned to bus him away to a different school for special needs children half-way through his Kindergarten year.

Vanessa DiCarlo, a special education consultant and attorney representing those with disabilities, said students like Ryken should not be uprooted from the communities they know.

“Other parents, even those without special needs kids, would not want their kids to get uprooted in the middle of the school year. It's hard on the kids," DiCarlo said.

Parents planned to speak out during the call to audience at the school board meeting on Tuesday night, and present their petition, hoping to sway the hearts and minds of board members, educators, and the Superintendent.

If the district does not agree, the issue will head to an administrative law judge in a disabilities courtroom, where a hearing is set to take place in May.

DeCarlo said this issue affected all families in the district with special needs children and added that they were not being given the same choices and opportunities as his classmates, all because he learned differently.

ABC15 reached out to the Gilbert Public Schools staff for a comment. A spokeswoman sent us this statement:

"The District is not able to respond to your questions or request for a comment, because to do so would likely violate student confidentiality rights set forth in federal and state laws.  However, we can share that our staff work diligently to address parent concerns when we become aware of them.  GPS personnel are also committed to making decisions that are lawful and in the best interest of the student at issue."