Judge tears into Atlanta Public Schools, blind woman over school bus lawsuit

ATLANTA -- It was a surprising admission from the lawyers for Atlanta Public Schools on Thursday in the case of a blind mother who is suing the district for refusing to bus her kids to school.

APS has been arguing that it's "completely safe" for Daffanie Todd's three young kids - all under the age of 9 - to walk the half mile to school on a busy street with no sidewalk.

"Ms. Todd’s children, the APS students, do not have a disability. We will continue to work with Ms. Todd to identify other community-based resources for her family," APS said in a statement sent to 11Alive News.

But in Thursday's case, a judge asked the lawyer for APS if she would let her kids make that walk without adult supervision.

She said no.

The judge also tore into both sides for the case having even made it to a courtroom instead of being worked out in another way.

"All I ask of APS is to please have a heart and get these kids back in school," Todd said.

Todd is suing Atlanta Public Schools for refusing to bus her kids - ages 5, 8 and 9 - to school.

"I wouldn't feel safe sending a five year old down a dark street in a winter's morning, trying to navigate a place with no sidewalks and cars speeding past. That's not safe. And that's not a reasonable accommodation for Miss Todd or her family," said Craig Goodmark, an attorney for Todd.

The kids haven't been in class at Continental Colony for 9 weeks.

Todd lives within the school's no-bus zone and APS told her they can't make an exception.

APS said they've tried to offer solutions, but Todd's lawyers said those solutions aren't practical.

Todd broke down on the witness stand, Thursday, saying these last 2 months have been incredibly difficult for her.

She hopes a solution can be reached soon so her kids can go back to school.

"They're education is very [much] more important than any law in Georgia," she said. "They're education is much more important than that."

This was just a hearing and for now the judge will be taking this case under advisement.

A spokesperson for Atlanta Public Schools sent 11Alive the following statement:

Ms. Todd's lawyers filed a lawsuit last week, alleging that the Atlanta Public Schools’ failure to “reasonably accommodate” Todd and her children violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. While APS is very sympathetic to her situation, the ADA does not require APS to provide transportation for her children because Georgia law establishes that children living within a walk zone are not entitled to transportation.

This applies to all children regardless of their ages. While the district works diligently to support our families, we have to balance that support with a fair approval process for operational decisions to ensure we do not create unsustainable practices, especially as there are likely many parents who have disabilities across the district.

Multiple APS personnel have personally examined the walking route and determined it to be completely safe for these children to walk to school. Ms. Todd’s children, the APS students, do not have a disability. We will continue to work with Ms. Todd to identify other community-based resources for her family.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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