Putting Education Reform To The Test

Protestors Asking For Hillsborough Resignations After Deaths of Two Students With Disabilities

Justice for Jennifer Caballero / Facebook

A screenshot of the Justice for Jennifer Caballero Facebook page. Protestors are asking for the resignation of the Hillsborough schools superintendent and school board chairman.

A group of parents is asking for the resignation of Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia and school board member Candy Olson following the deaths of two special needs students.

A protest is planned for 4 p.m. today at the school board meeting.

School board members are also questioning the district’s policies, the Tampa Bay Times reports, after a lawsuit was filed over the January death of 7-year-old Bella Herrera.

Herrera had a neuromuscular disorder and had trouble breathing while riding a school bus. She was unresponsive by the time she got to a hospital and died the next day.

In October, 11-year-old Jennifer Caballero drowned in a retention pond at Rogers Middle School in Riverview. Caballero had Down syndrome and slipped away from teachers and adult supervisors during a gym class.

Two Facebook pages have been set up in response to the deaths.

Hillsborough school board member Stacy White says he plans to ask Elia for a top-to-bottom review of the district’s exceptional student education program. From the Times:

“I was intending to wait until our next business meeting to have what I call a robust conversation,” said board member Stacy White. “But clearly I will not be able to wait that long.”

…White wants to go farther. He plans to ask superintendent MaryEllen Elia to examine the entire exceptional student education (ESE) system and consider changes in its leadership.

“My expectation is that the superintendent will look at that department,” he said. If not, “then I will explore the idea of an outside investigation.”

In addition, a special needs student drowned at a September back-to-school party hosted by Pepin Academy, a Hillsborough County charter school.

We’ve reported on the trouble students with disabilities have had enrolling in the school of their choice in Hillsborough County, whether a district school or a charter school.


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