After the steam quit coming out of my ears, I talked with a couple of other parents. They had already found a school official and made her aware of the problem. According to her, there was a lift that could be pushed back and forth from the home to the visitor side. Not exactly a good solution, since there was no place to put a wheelchair. After the game, the school official did come over and apologize to our son. Unfortunately, my husband and I didn’t get to speak with her as we were helping get the band out of the stadium and loaded back up.
During the game, my husband had gone with my son to the home side to go to the bathroom. You see, they had to go the home side because there were no restrooms on the visitor side. When arriving at the bathroom, my husband texts me to say there are no doors on the bathroom stalls. Well that was the icing on the cake. Enough was enough.
I thought about this situation all weekend, and how I should handle it. One thing was for sure, I could not let it go. I decided to write a letter of concern to the Whitfield County School Superintendent and school officials. In the letter, I cited passages from the Americans with Disabilities Act in an effort to make them see that denying comparable seating because of a disability was illegal. Within 30 minutes of sending the email I received a phone call from the school. They agreed the school was out of compliance and that the situation was unacceptable. An hour or so later I received an email from the school superintendent. Again, we were in agreement that something had to be done. They appeared to be acting very quickly to rectify the problem.
Within the next few days a meeting was held between the superintendent’s office, the building maintenance office, special education department and school officials. I received an email after the meeting updating me on the situation. There is a renovation planned, and I offered to send pictures of the seating at LHS stadium, which I did. The plan is for me to follow up the first of each month to be updated on the progress of the renovation.
I’m telling you this to say that we all have to advocate for others. To say this situation had never been an issue is outrageous. The school was built in 1975. I’m sure there have been plenty of physically challenged people who have wanted to come watch a football game, watch the band or watch a high school graduation over the years. It’s not as difficult as you may think to advocate. If it involves a situation at school, sometimes it takes a parent to bring it to the attention of school officials to get something done. Don’t let up. It’s discrimination, and it will continue unless we speak out and do something about it. Seize every opportunity you have to advocate.
Pam Rasmussen is a resident of LaFayette. She is the mother of a child with spina bifida and an advocate of special needs children and adults. She can be contacted at email@example.com.