Local News

Parent Files Civil Rights Complaint Against Lee County School

Posted January 3, 2000

— Special education students started the year in a large kindergarten room at the brand-new Broadway Elementary School. When the number of kindergarten students increased, the school moved the special education students to the only space available: a storage room.

At home, 11-year-old Brandon Wrenn has plenty of room to play the drums. However, his mother Susan says in his special education classroom at Broadway Elementary School, there is barely enough room to do anything.

"Give the children some space," Wrenn said. "They have enough challenges and obstacles in their life."

Wrenn has filed a civil rights complaint against the school with theU.S. Department of Education.

The classroom was originally slated as a storage room. Parents say it has 240 square feet of usable space. The school puts it at 384 square feet.

"There are eight mentally and physically disabled children," Wrenn said. "If anything, they require more space."

Another parent, Lisa Bethea, said tears came to her eyes.

"I was so disappointed," Bethea said. "There was so much stuff in that one classroom. I couldn't believe it."

Dr. L.A. Lyon, principal of Broadway Elementary School, says he had no choice but to move the group to a smaller classroom when the number of students in the school increased.

"We would elect certainly to use a larger room if we had it, there's no question of that," Lyon said. "On the other hand, if this is what we have to offer, it's not really very bad. The room is really quite appropriate."

To parents who want the best for their children, the situation seems very bad.

"I would like to see them in a full-size classroom with the materials they need for their education like all of the other kids are getting," Bethea said.

There is no state or federal law governing square footage in classrooms, but the state's guidelines suggest that special education classrooms be at least 1,200 square feet.

This is not the only school in Lee County where there are complaints.

Parents at Tramway Elementary School also say their children's special education classroom is too small.

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