Mother of disabled student files complaint about elevator issues
by Lindsay Field
August 26, 2012 01:02 AM | 5043 views | 28 28 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sharon O’Grady stands with her son, Brent, at their home on Friday. Brent, a sophomore at Kennesaw Mountain High School, was unable to attend two of his four classes on the first day of school because the school’s elevator was broken. Currently, there is not a second elevator or chair lift for Brent to use if the elevator is broken, which happened several times last year, according to Sharon.<br>Staff/Jon-Michael Sullivan
Sharon O’Grady stands with her son, Brent, at their home on Friday. Brent, a sophomore at Kennesaw Mountain High School, was unable to attend two of his four classes on the first day of school because the school’s elevator was broken. Currently, there is not a second elevator or chair lift for Brent to use if the elevator is broken, which happened several times last year, according to Sharon.
Staff/Jon-Michael Sullivan
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KENNESAW — A Kennesaw Mountain High School parent has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice alleging that her son’s rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act because the elevator her son uses at the school has had problems that prevented him from attending classes.

Sharon O’Grady, who is a school nurse at Powers Ferry Elementary in east Cobb, filed the complaint with the federal department Friday. Her 16-year-old son, Brent O’Grady, is a sophomore at Kennesaw Mountain and was born with spina bifida, which causes paralysis to his legs. He has used a wheelchair his whole life.

On Brent’s first day of school last Monday, he couldn’t attend two of his four classes because the only elevator in the school was broken.

“I’ve always taught Brent that we adapt to the environment, but my God, you’re a federal building, breaking a federal law,” she said. “I don’t understand the issue of denying his education. It isn’t right to me … we do our part, I just want them to do their part.”

She said Brent called her that morning to say that the elevator was broken, so she immediately contacted the school district, which had the elevator repaired by 1:30 that afternoon.

“Last year we had an (Individualized Education Program) meeting for him and was told at that meeting that the elevators have issues,” she said. “The problems aren’t new. What’s new is that I’m making a stink about it. I don’t think (the district) gets that they broke a federal law and that they are a federal institution.”

Sharon went on to say that she doesn’t blame the school itself because Principal Dr. Kevin Daniel and his staff have been very “helpful and understanding” but that it’s not in their hands to add another elevator.

“It may never break again, which would be great, but there needs to be a second elevator in the event that something happens to the first one,” she said. “It may not happen before (Brent graduates), but at least the next kids could get it. Let’s do some prevention of this not happening again.”

On Friday, Deputy Superintendent of Operations Chris Ragsdale said a second elevator is his top priority in SPLOST IV, which is expected to go before the voters in March 2013, but in the meantime, he is trying to identify any additional funding that could be used to get a second elevator installed sooner.

“It not being a line item in SPLOST III poses difficulty to try and get it resolved,” he said, adding that installing a second elevator at Kennesaw Mountain could cost $600,000 to $800,000.

However, that doesn’t meant the district couldn’t use SPLOST III funds to pay for an additional elevator, but Ragsdale said it would all depend on how specifically the initiative is written.

He has verified with the school that the elevator is only being used for students with disabilities and not to move heavy furniture or equipment.

“I don’t believe they’ve had any other problems with it since the first day, and during that maintenance time, they ran it through multiple issues to make sure it doesn’t break again,” he said.

Kennesaw Mountain is one of 13 high schools in Cobb that is more than one story tall but the only one that doesn’t have multiple elevators.

Additionally, Ragsdale said that along with the elevator at Kennesaw Mountain, addressing ADA needs across the district is a priority with the fourth SPLOST initiative.

“If a school was built at a certain time … they are under the current codes at the time of construction, so if codes change, you try to do everything you can to improve that access at older facilities,” he said.

Kennesaw Mountain was built in 2001.

Cobb Schools Attorney Clem Doyle said that anyone could file a concern with the Justice Department or U.S. Department of Education. After that, the federal education department’s office of civil rights will then contact the district, request information and eventually come to a finding.

The process could take several months, he said.

In response, Cobb would need to resolve any issues identified, and if chooses not to, the U.S. Department of Education could withhold federal funding, Doyle said.

“The district takes this concern very seriously, and we have started speaking to district officials about this issue of access to education, based on the parent’s concerns,” he said. “In terms of a resolution, the district will be looking at what is necessary to resolve the issue, which includes but is not limited to SPLOST IV discussion.”

Comments
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jp4ga
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August 28, 2012
So if the second elevator breaks are they going to want a 3rd one installed? The school got it fixed the day the problem was reported. Things break down and need maintance it would be differnt if it was broken for DAYS and DAYS and DAYS.

My question is when the building was built was it built to code? If not fix it, if so leave it as it is.
Commons Sense
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August 28, 2012
My son the other day slipped on the floor at a local, major hardware store due to errant sand being left on the floor. My son got up crying with 4 cuts and scraps on his face, elbow, arm and foot. Instead of suing the store, I asked them to clean it up and told my son to be careful next time. Why couldn't you have just gone to the principal again and talked to him about your situation before making this a national lawsuit. I could sue for many things as well, but choose to teach my son that there are better ways to handle life than sue. Just because you know IDEA like the back of your hand doesn't give you carte blanche to be latigous. Parents and teachers like you are the reason why education teaches defensively. $600,000 to $800,000 for one elevator for one child seems very unreasonable to John Q tax payer to have to swallow in this tough economy. Since the 1990's I believe the government has been very fortright with government entities and private businesses in forcing them to build bigger ramps, bigger openings to doors with automatic sensors, bigger bathrooms and more handicap parkings spaces over the decades. You're are not singled out by any means.
findsomecompassion
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August 30, 2012
You're comparing you're son's "cuts and scraps" to this student's permanent phsyical disabilities?! I don't even know where to begin with that. It would have been nice if this mother could have told her son "be careful next time and don't get spina bifida". How do you know how many times this parent has approached the school or school board with this issue? Perhaps she has done that several times already and this was the last straw. If there are other solutions to guarantee this student's right to access his classes than another elevator, that's fine. From the county's response in the article, it doesn't sound like anything was offered. If that's the case the complaint with the fed's is warranted. Also, this story says a complaint was filed, not a law suit...so no one is being "latigous". Finally, I doubt this parent's complaint is about "one child" as you suggest. Do you suppose there are additional disabled students, teachers and parents who also must access the second floor? Be grateful if your son doesn't have to worry about getting to his classes, but don't take for granted that everyone's child is so fortunate.
Z Boys
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August 30, 2012
Your son was running in the store now wasn't he? Injuries sound kinda sever for a simple "ooops" on some sand sweet heart. Heart warming story but a kid with permanent disabilities is a life issue.

BTW, I never sued anyone for anything either.

Doug B
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August 27, 2012
Sharon, way to go! If you don't stand up for your child, no one else will. My son has CP and just graduated from high school. We spent 4 years fighting to get him everything he needed to succeed. What others don't realize is that there was probably alot of discussion going on in meetings and IEPs to get to this point. Let them walk a mile in your shoes and then comment. Keep up the good fight!
Sharon O'Grady
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August 27, 2012
Thank you - I needed that
lostmycompassion
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August 27, 2012
Sharon, you lost my compassion when you compared your plight to the installation of artificial turf. That money was earmarked and budgeted for years in the SPLOST and has been incredibly beneficial for THOUSANDS of kids, not just one. And not just the able-bodied kids, but the students with special needs at the high schools. Stick to your situation and don't make a far-fetched comparison with no basis. People feel terrible for you and your situation but you really should stop mentioning the turf because you lose credibility.
MoreLost
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August 27, 2012
She doesn't need your compassion, she has a Federal law on her side.

What she needs is a CCSB that prioritizes properly. She'll get her backup elevator, although her son will have probably graduated by then.
findsomecompassion
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August 27, 2012
Lostmycompassion...If I understand you correctly, a disabled student's abilty to access classes on the second floor with his classmates is a "benefit" since you compare it to the "beneficial" purpose of the turf. And after all, he is only "just one" kid, as you state, so why bother with his rights? The Individuals With Diabilties Act was enacted to protect diasbled citizens against just the lack of concern for their rights as you are voicing. The comparison to the spending on turf is not only valid, but it puts the proper perspective on this situation.
Be Careful
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August 27, 2012
Come on...he missed 2 classes the first day of school, and the elevator was fixed that day. This is a classic case of over reaction.
Sharon O'Grady
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August 27, 2012
You don't have all the information - this was the a follow-through the elevator has been broken before. Clearly, if I don't stand up for rights, then nothing gets done. Believe me I thought long and hard before making the decision. Thank you for your interest.
Schooldidgood
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August 30, 2012
I think the school responded quickly to accomidate him, especially since it was the first day of school. (She immediately contacted the school district, which had the elevator repaired by 1:30 that afternoon.) I think the school should have a right to have proper amount of time to get things done.

But it is what it is... things break... We can't help that... if that was true, i would be able to control when my car breaks down or not on the side of the road, in which it has done quite a few times. I get it repaired, and I am able to use it again. I dont have to buy a second car because of it.

Andrew Nelson
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August 27, 2012
When there is a fire or fire drill, the elevators don't work on purpose so a plan has to be in place to carry any of the students that can't take the steps out of the building.

Can't there be a plan to carry the disabled students to the second floor when the elevator is not working? If this has only happened once in 10 years, it seems a little crazy to spend 600000 to 800000 for a back up elevator.
Sharon O'Grady
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August 27, 2012
They are mis-quoting the price. The line item is $240,000 -- they spend $500,000 on artificial turf. The county is elevating the cost in the report.

Thanks for your comment
I16
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August 26, 2012
If one of the students were hurt on the rubber field.

I bet the elevator would have been fixed quickly.

Dr. Walrus should take care of this.
CobbParent
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August 26, 2012
So let me get this right, the elevator was repaired within a few hours. A 2nd elevator would be a luxury that is not required by law, but the BOE had been putting a plan in motion to do it anyway. I think I'll I file complaint with the government and have the taxpayers buy me a 2nd car, in case the first one ever breaks down.
Sharon O'Grady
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August 27, 2012
It is the law to have more than on mode of transportation on different levels. Please understand that this is something we and other students at the school have been dealing with. The second elevator, chair lift, something other than putting him in the library by himself. It was a last resort on my part to get something done. Thanks for your comment.
Mark A Johnson
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August 26, 2012
When I attended North Springs High back in the Jurassic Age, classmate David Sampson had cerebral palsy and was wheel chair confined. The school had 3 levels and no elevators but David's mobility was addressed by his leaving each class 5 minutes early with 2 boys, who would wheel him up or down stairs to his next class before the bedlam of scheduled class change. David graduated with our class.

Working elevators are undoubtedly preferable, but in the interim could not a modicum of common sense be employed? Our society today exalts adamantine codification over the traditional American "can do" spirit. We are now a nation self-aggrieved pencil pushers.
Sharon O'Grady
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August 27, 2012
sorry you just don't understand
Sharon O'Grady
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August 27, 2012
People like David Sampson fought this battle before we did. Think if they dropped him, think if they got hurt. Think that the county has known about this issue. Think that they put $500,000 - quote from the director of splot to put in an artificial football field - think that the county missquoted the price - it is $240,000 also quote from the director of splost. Think if you were the one that people are still remembering being carried up and down the stairs at high school. Apparently it made an impression on you - help don't watch. Thank you for your comment
Sharon O'Grady
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August 27, 2012
My comment didn't make it through correctly. Thank goodness that none of the students that carried David Sampson up and down the stairs did not drop him or get hurt themselves. David and/or his parents would back me on this issue. It must have made quite an impression on you to still remember his name - strange to see a classmate get carried up and down the stairs, wasn't it? Great solution, the law is in place for a reason.
Mustangs!
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August 26, 2012
As a teacher, I would be more than willing to move my class to another room which would allow her son to attend. This just sounds like a really easy solution that would work.
Sharon O'Grady
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August 27, 2012
Are you willing to move all the classes downstairs? Look around your school - there isn't just one wheelchair is there?
$700,000?
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August 26, 2012
Is anyone else concerned that Cobb taxpayers are being asked to spend $700,000 just to add a backup elevator for one child? That does not sound like a reasonable accommodation to me...
Full of Hooey
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August 27, 2012
Ragsdale is full of you know what. There were MILLIONS of dollars removed from SPLOST and moved to the general fund over the past few years that could have bought a 14 karat gold elevator, much less a standard one.

Top priority my foot. Strangely the dollars to pay for needs seemingly discovered after the fact are always dependent upon the NEXT SPLOST. Never again as far as I am concerned.
Sharon O'Grady
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August 27, 2012
Do you really think that it will cost that much? The director of Splost said it would be $240,000 and that the football fields they put in around the county are half a million. Shame on them for the wrong $$$ quote. Thanks for your comment.
Sharon O'Grady
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August 27, 2012
Read my comments - they Ragsdale put the outrageous $$ amount so that he would get people against him - shame on him. I was quoted by the Director of SPLOST Glen Brown that the elevator would cost $240,000. It isn't for just one child there are others at the school,there are parents at the school. I'm just the one that has chosen to direct the money for something other than half a million on artificial grass for football fields across the county.
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