TRACY CITY, TN (WRCB) -- Kory Short says he's back where he belongs: at school with his friends. "They were glad to see me, and I am so happy to be back. I was glad to see them too."
Just last month, the Tracy City 8th grader was unable to attend class in his school. The school was insufficiently staffed to help with his basic needs, like going to the bathroom. Each day, Kory's parents were called to help, until they eventually kept him home. Until now.
Kip Short said, "My son can go to school now because they have made modifications. There's still a ways to go but we']re getting there."
Kip and Penny Short say they were insulted by the School District's unreasonable solutions, like giving Kory an enema and a catheter to keep him from going to the bathroom. One Grundy County School Board member saw the story that aired on Channel 3, and was disturbed by what he saw.
Leon Woodlee said, "I got emotional about it. The whole thing upset me. We've got to get together as a community and make sure our schools can accommodate and welcome all students."
Although Grundy County school administrators were advised not to speak on camera, or to allow us inside Tracy City classrooms, Kory's parents say, that under the gun from federal officials (the Office for Civil Rights), the school district has made life easier for Kory. They say principal Dr. Russell Ladd helped obtain an adaptive laptop for Kory, giving him easy access to homework and the Internet for the first time in years.
Kory says, "With this adaptive keypad, I don't have to try to lift my arms. I can type, write my homework, and e-mail my teacher. It makes it easy for me."
He says such improvements are the first steps in providing him with what he, and every disabled child in Grundy County should have. "Everybody needs a chance at an education," Kory says. "That's everybody's right, and that's all I've asked for.
TRACY CITY, GRUNDY COUNTY (WRCB)- A Grundy County 8th grader is home from school today, and every day, but not by choice. 14-year-old Kory Short has a form of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and faces obstacles most children don't have to deal with. As much as he would like to attend classes, his school has failed to make the necessary accommodations.
Kory Short has the same goals as other children. "I just want to be able to spend time with my friends and get a good education."
He's determined to get that education, but says that the Grundy County Board of Education isn't making it easy. Just seven weeks after spinal fusion surgery that enabled him to sit upright, Kory and his family say they're tired of a 4-year battle with Tracy City Elementary School (the school includes grades K-8). Despite orders from federal officials and promises from school administrators, Tracy City is not equipped to accommodate Kory's needs with his degenerative muscle condition.
WHAT IS "DUCHENNE MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY?"
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is described by the Mayo Clinic as "a disease in which symptoms usually appear in boys aged 1 to 6. There is a steady decline in muscle strength between the ages of 6 and 11 years. By age 10, braces may be required for walking, and by age 12, most boys are confined to a wheelchair. Bones develop abnormally, causing skeletal deformities of the spine and other areas. Muscular weakness and skeletal deformities frequently contribute to breathing disorders. Cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart) occurs in almost all cases, beginning in the early teens in some, and in all after the age of 18 years.
"THEY HOPE WE WILL JUST GO AWAY"
Kory's father Kip, who has shelved his thriving cabinet business because "Kory is number one," says he's "up to here" after hearing repeated promises from the school district since 2009. "By leaving him home every day, there's no social life, no playground equipment, none of the adaptive technology that is available. They keep promising, but nothing has never been fixed. They hope we will just go away. We are from here. We are not going anywhere."
Asked what he would wish for, Kory pauses and says, "I would like to be able to go to school, and not have to worry about anything. Before I stopped going, I used to have to worry about going to the bathroom, or what if I can not do my work, and the teacher gets on to me." The recent surgery was a mixed blessing, according to Kory. "I can sit up straighter than I used to, but I can't raise my arms." The school recently sent him a used laptop, "with all of a teacher's personal information on it," according to Kory's father. "They just unloaded an old laptop on him so they could get her a new one." Kory said, "I would really like one that you just have to speak into. They have those now."
PROMISES BROKEN, INSTRUCTIONS IGNORED
After the surgery in October, Kory's doctor released him to return to school, with the instruction that two trained nurses be provided to assist him at school. There were also requests for basic training for Kory's teachers and bus driver. Kip Short said, "As far as we can tell, none of that has happened."
From the classroom, to the playground, to the cafeteria, to the bathroom, Grundy County has yet to make structural changes or provide employee training to help Kory. There is not a nurse on campus to assist him. His parents say the school's reluctance to help, has made it impossible to maintain their own jobs.
"The bathroom was an issue," said Kip Short. "The school would call and say we can't deal with him. My wife would have to leave work and take care of him, in a public school." He said there was another recent incident in which a bus driver "got off the bus to attend to some personal business and just left Kory sitting there by himself, helpless." In the cafeteria, "they'll sit him down, put a carton of milk in front of him, with no one to open it or lift it to his mouth."
"AN UNREASONABLE SOLUTION"
According to Mr. Short, the school district has offered only unreasonable solutions absolving itself of any responsibility. He recalls a recent conversation with a school counselor, urging them to send Kory to school. "She suggested catheterizing him and giving him an enema each morning so he wouldn't have to go to the bathroom. That made me mad. I'm not going to give Kory an enema and catheterize him every day just so they can shirk their responsibilities."
Mr. Short says the school district has been ordered by the Office of Civil Rights to comply with the American With Disabilities Act, and make the necessary accommodations for Kory. "They keep saying they'll get it done. But how many years are we supposed to wait? He would like to pass 8th grade and get into the high school next year." Mr. Short says a "homebound teacher" visits occasionally, "but we have no idea if he is learning on an 8th grade level. They send various people to check up on him, but the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing."
"HE COULD BE PRESIDENT"
Pointing proudly to photos on the family living room wall, Kory reminisces about a trip to Washington D.C. in 2009, during which he met Senators, Representatives, and the President. Reading about President Franklin Roosevelt, a polio patient who led the nation from a wheelchair from 1933 until 1945, inspired Kory according to his father. "Kory is just an average young man," said Kip Short. "He could be president, just like FDR. But not if he is denied access to a fair and equal education."
Grundy County Director of Schools Jody Hargis said he "could not comment on a student matter on the advice of our attorney." The Short family says they are considering taking legal action of their own. "We just want our son to be able to go to school," said Kip Short. Kory concluded, "I think after a while they just put things off without thinking of anyone's feelings. I still have feelings, and maybe they think I'll just give up. But I'm not giving up."
Wednesday, May 15 2013 7:00 PM EDT2013-05-15 23:00:43 GMT
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