SC disability rights group shares concerns over reopening schools

As schools make preparations for the fall, one organization is expressing concerns about the governor’s recommendation to reopen schools.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As schools make preparations for the fall, one organization is expressing concerns about the governor’s recommendation to reopen schools.

Able SC is a non-profit organization led by people with disabilities that focuses on empowerment and offering services.

Executive Director Kimberly Tissot says those with disabilities aren’t being fully included in the reopening discussions.

"Right now what we are not seeing in any of the plans are real efforts to assist with making sure that our needs are being met while also making sure that we are healthy," Tissot said. "But also, respecting that some of us will not be able to go into the schools because of our disabilities or health care conditions."

The organization believes that it is too early to be opening schools. Tissot says while she understands the desire for things to get back to normal, she says there needs to be an alternative option to education.

In many cases, there will be options for those that want to go back to school and people who want virtual learning. But the group feels like there are still risks involved.

As a response to the governor’s recommendations the group wrote in part, “Teachers and school personnel who have a disability (including underlying health conditions) need to be protected, but seem to be given no choice in the matter. Under the governor’s recommendation, they would have to attend school five days a week. Not only is this dangerous to the teachers themselves, but it is also putting hundreds of students and the students’ families in danger. We cannot protect students in our schools if we are not protecting teachers and school personnel.”

Some parents are also unsure about what the best option is for students with special needs.

Joe Mabe has a 16-year-old daughter with autism who is being home schooled.

He says while she wants to go back to school, he doesn't want to put his daughter at risk. Mabe's daughter was participating in a virtual camp, but it didn't seem to work for her.

“I don’t think the state or the county is giving enough options,” Mabe said. “What about our special needs kids? It could be physical or mental, but I don’t think they’re doing enough to help our children prepare for the upcoming school year.”

Tissot wants the state to take the lead by bringing people with disabilities to the forefront of the planning process.

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