School District bats down Sandy Island discrimination charges
There are currently no disabled children living on Sandy Island who attend a Georgetown County school. But if there ever is, they will be provided with transportation to school activities.
That is an agreement the Georgetown County School District has reached in response to a complaint alleging racial discrimination that was filed with the Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Dept. of Education in December 2011.
The complaint alleges the district “discriminates against the students on the basis of race” because no transportation is provided from the homes of students to the boat landing where students board a ferry to be transported to the mainland.
“Students in all other parts of the district are provided transportation from their homes” when the distance is greater than half-a-mile, the complaint states.
In its response, the district notes there were no students identified in the complaint who are being denied transportation services. It says most of the students live “within easy walking distance” of the landing while a Jeep, operated by the district, is used to transport students who live farther away from the ferry boat.
The Jeep was used by four students last year. One is an 18-year-old who has been provided the transportation for 12 years.
The complaint also alleges discrimination because the ferry boat is not always heated during cold weather and is not “adequately maintained to prevent the students from inhaling harmful fumes during the trip.”
The district says the boat is heated and is inspected by the South Carolina Department of Education’s Transportation Department every six weeks.
“The school boat operator explained that the exhaust is at the back of the boat and does not blow into the passenger compartment,” the document states, adding the operator has never received a complaint about fumes.
The final allegation states the district fails to make the school boat and landing accessible to individuals with mobility impairments.
“Staff members maintain ... no students with mobility impairments have ever resided on Sandy Island,” the District responded.
The District says it will submit a plan by March 1 that will give details on transportation that will be provide for handicapped students and their parents if the need arises in the future. The details will be placed on the district’s website.
By Scott Harper
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