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'Fluff and mirrors': Parents of ESE students decry new Leon County bus routes

Posted at 6:19 PM, Aug 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-13 18:19:26-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Fluff and mirrors. That's how a Tallahassee mother describes the preparation Leon County Schools had for her child and others with special needs.

We're digging into an issue impacting parents in the Big Bend following day two of major bus backlash for Leon County Schools.

Special needs students were among the biggest groups impacted by the change. Chantelle Navarro spoke to another family demanding action.

ABC 27 was there at the Leon County Schools transportation center on Tuesday afternoon as the sun started beating down. Now imagine being a child with a health condition that's made worse by the warm weather.

That's the case for Ragan Thursby.

She's thirteen and has autism as well as Pitt Hopkins Syndrome. That means she doesn't sweat like the average person and requires an air-conditioned bus.

If she doesn't, she risks overheating and getting seriously sick.

Thursby's mom tells ABC 27, with all the bus issues happening, the bus did not show up Monday for her Ragan after her mom continuously told the school she needed it. Despite being told one would come Tuesday, that did not happen.

"This is a big deal," said Kasi Pulliza, Ragan's mom. "This isn't like you can just have a group of kids that ride with a neighbor when the bus is late. These kids need to have transportation specific to their needs."

Even after getting to school, Ragan was stuck there for more than an hour after school let out, waiting for a ride home.

Other parents ABC 27 spoke with, whose kids also have autism, say the routes themselves are a big game-changer because changing routines impacts the kids emotionally and behaviorally.

Leon County Schools did offer after and before school care for kids with everything happening. But it's not offered to kids with special needs, due to the extra help and attention they might require.