8 Investigates

Taking Action: Richmond mom battles for busing for her special needs child

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -- 8News is taking action and getting results after a Richmond mom struggled for months battling for busing for her special needs child.

"Sometimes I be like, I wish I had never moved to Richmond,” says Erica Blackwell.

She and her son Dariyon moved to Richmond this summer. Dariyon who has a learning disability and ADHD attends Dominion Academy.

Since they live in the City, Richmond Public Schools is responsible for his transportation to his special needs school.

“They assured me they were going to set up transportation and I literally had a staff of people kind of look me in the face and say they would put the request in and transportation would be reaching out to me, they never did,” says Blackwell.

An RPS email shared with 8News shows school officials were alerted to the transfer student back in June

"She cc'ed everybody in the email,” says Blackwell.

Yet when Dariyon’s summer school started it was clear someone dropped the ball.

"He never got transported this summer,” says Blackwell. Blackwell says RPS failed to set up the transportation.

After several emails and calls throughout the summer, a van did come to pick up Blackwell's son for the first day of the new school year.

However, the transportation troubles quickly rolled on.

"You don't know what time they are going to come and what time they are going to drop him off,” says Blackwell.

She was told her son's pick up time was 7:05 a.m. but soon that time started changing without any notice.

"They come sometimes 6:30, 6:40, 6:45, 6:55,” says Blackwell.

"It's still dark outside,” Dariyon told 8News.

And his classes at the Academy don't even start until after 8 AM. 

"When I go to school I am kind of grumpy and moody,” says Dariyon.

The ride home is just as long. The dismissal bell rings at 2:50 p.m. but Dariyon wouldn't arrive home for more than an hour later.

"He was getting here 4:07, 4:10, 4:20. If you dealing with a child who has ADHD and had a hard time focusing and has a hard time standing still, an hour 15 minutes and hour 30 minutes van ride can be a lot,” says Blackwell.

Dariyon has already had an incident onboard that landed him in in-school-suspension.

"It is over-crowded, it has a lot of students on there with different behaviors and different backgrounds. It is only going to lead to disaster,” says Blackwell.

According to Dariyon's Individual Education Program or IEP, he's wasn’t even supposed to be on that van.

It clearly states he's supposed to be “transported in a car with curbside pick-up.” So, mom complained again.

"As a parent, it is very frustrating that you have to you have to send emails daily, make phone calls daily,” says Blackwell.

So frustrating she started driving him herself and she waited for word from RPS.

"I never heard anything back until you guys got involved,” says Blackwell.

After 8News reached out to RPS several times this week, a spokesperson for the schools is now telling 8News a car will be provided to accommodate the Dariyon’s transportation needs as outlined in his IEP.

RPS spokesperson Kenita Bowers also told 8News:

“It is important to note that all transportation schedules are an estimation due to extenuating circumstances that may arise beyond the control of the driver such as traffic, delays, picking up other students, etc. 

To put this into perspective:
•    there are a total of 6 students that need to be picked up and dropped off on this student's route
•    the start time of this route is 6:54 AM and ends 7:50 AM for a total of 55:19 minutes of travel (barring any traffic, etc.)
•    the afternoon route starts at 2:50 PM and ends at 3:48 PM for a total of 58:06 minutes of travel (barring any traffic, etc.)

We strive to ensure that all of our students are transported to and from school in a safe and timely manner each day. Our transportation department has coordinated with our special education team to ensure that the specifications of the student's IEP are being followed appropriately. “

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