2010-10-01 / Top Stories

DOE To Handicapped Teen: Hoof It

By Howard Schwach

A young Rockaway Park pre-teen, who has been officially diagnosed with a handicap, has been forced to walk the dangerous Beach Channel Drive stretch where no sidewalks exist and where traffic speeds because the Department of Education ended the yellow bus service he has had since he started school, his mother says.

Noah Hopkins, a sixth grader at the Scholars’ Academy was diagnosed some years ago with attention deficithyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which makes it harder for the student to concentrate and therefore to learn.

Although he was never placed in a special education class, he has an individual education plan (IEP) and was getting special services such as regular counseling and other related services at PS 232 in Howard Beach. At that school, he was transported each day by a yellow school bus.

This year, Hopkins, who lives on Beach 90 Street, gained entrance to the prestigious Scholars’ Academy, a testimony to the fact that a student with ADHD can excel, his mother, Leslie says.

His entrance into Scholars’ posed problems, however.

The Department of Education, looking at the proximity of his home to the school, refused to provide a school bus ride.

His mom applied for a bus variance on the grounds that he had an IEP and busing is mandated for special students

Denied, because he was not in a special class.

“I am responding to your request for an exception to the Department of Education’s eligibility requirements to permit your child to receive transportation to and from school,” said an August letter from the Office of Pupil Transportation. “The reason for this decision is pupil is ineligible for any transportation by grade and distance.”

She applied for a medical variance.

Denied.

“After careful review, the Medical Bureau has determined that the conditions presented do not warrant an exception to current transportation policies,” a letter from Robert Carney, the director of general education transportation, said.

She appealed.

Denied.

The Wave reviewed the routes that the 11-year-old ADHD youngster can use to get from his home to the school on Beach 103 Street.

The easily-distractible youngster can walk on Beach Channel Drive, but has to pass the entrance ramps to the Cross Bay Bridge, where there are no sidewalks.

Or, he can walk up to Rockaway Beach Boulevard and then cross the Freeway to get back to the school at a point where there are no traffic lights.

His mother believes that neither is a good alternative.

“We’ve never been denied busing for him in the past,” Leslie Hopkins said. “The walk is very dangerous and I have had to walk him back and forth to and from school each day to make sure he is safe.”

When Hopkins called the state’s Department of Education to file for a variance, they told her that she would be better off just getting a special education designation for her son, something that would stay on his record for the rest of his school career.

She is resistant to do that, but was told that getting him labeled as special education was the quickest way to resolve the problem.

“I have to do what is best for my son,” she said. “I should not have been put in this position.”

The Department of Education declined to comment for this story because of confidentiality issues.

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