Parent sues North Allegheny schools

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A parent is suing North Allegheny School District, charging that the district is discriminating against her child due to his mental and physical disabilities.

In the complaint filed Feb. 18 in U.S. District Court, the mother, identified as K.K., contends that the district is discriminating against her son, identified as S.K., by not providing transportation between his school and day care, something she says is available to children without disabilities in the district.

The school district's policy is not to provide transportation for students to and from day care centers that are outside of the district, but the mother contends that no day care in the district will accept her son because of his disability.

S.K. is described in the complaint as a “medically fragile" 7-year-old diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by slow growth, vision and hearing loss, and developmental delays. S.K. is blind and deaf and requires help eating and using the bathroom.

As part of the Individualized Education Program, or IEP, for S.K., educators in the district and his mother determined that S.K. would be best served at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children on North Bellefield Avenue in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood.

Pennsylvania education laws state that transportation must be provided as required by a child’s IEP, and North Allegheny transports S.K. to and from his home and the Oakland school.

When her child was 3 years old, K.K., a single mother, looked for day care options that would meet his medical needs so that she could return to work. She said she contacted every day care in the North Allegheny School District, but none would accept her son because none had adequate resources to care for him.

K.K. contends that the only day care in the area equipped and willing to care for her son is Child's Way, a special needs day care on Penn Avenue in the city's Friendship neighborhood. It is part of the Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center. 

According to a statement on the North Allegheny website, the district will provide transportation for all students in accordance with the state law. The website outlines transportation regulations, including rules for busing to and from day care centers: “The day care must be within the attendance area of the school being serviced. The Department will not travel outside the attendance border for childcare purposes.”

Representatives from North Allegheny School District declined to comment on the pending suit.

The district defers to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which states explicitly on its website: “Transportation is a privilege, not a right.”

In the complaint, K.K. maintains that the district transports two other children who live in the North Allegheny district to Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children and that Child’s Way is less than 2 miles from the school.

Because she has been unable to arrange transportation to day care for her son, he has not been enrolled in school for 2012-13 or 2013-14. He has attended Child's Way during that time.

A representative from the Children’s Home of Pittsburgh said the home cannot comment because it is not involved in the dispute. The center does not provide transportation for enrolled children.

A representative for the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children said transportation to and from the school is the responsibility of the student’s local school district, and a couple of other districts do provide transportation to day care facilities that are not within their districts.

Pennsylvania law requires that students begin school by age 8. S.K. is 7.

Despite language outlined by the district at the state, K.K. stands by the discrimination claim.

“If he were a typical boy he could go to a typical school and day care,” she said. “But he’s not typical, so it seems he’s not allowed an education.”

Lauren Lindstrom: or 412-263-1964.

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