A Tennessee elementary school student who uses a wheelchair was unable to attend a class trip because, the school said, no one could be found to drive a wheelchair-accessible van. School officials have apologized for the incident, but the boy's family members have taken matters into their own hands.
Holden Crawley, 9, attends class part time at Stone Elementary School in Cumberland County. He has been unable to walk or speak since suffering brain injuries in a severe car crash two years ago, and he reportedly doesn't get many opportunities for outings. His family was thrilled for him to go on a class trip to a zoo last week, but they learned right before the trip that he would have to stay behind because there was no one available who could operate a wheelchair-accessible bus, reports local outlet WATE-TV.
"We were very excited about this field trip. His grandpa took off work. His 5-year-old sister was going to attend. Really this was going to be our first family outing since his accident," Crawley grandmother, Pam Flowers, told WATE.
In response to the school’s decision, Flowers filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, noting that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires schools to accommodate students with disabilities on school trips. She also complained to school officials, according to area news station WBIR-TV.
“I want him treated like you would your kid,” said Flowers, per WBIR.
School officials have since apologized to Flowers, saying there had been a mistake. They also offered to take Holden to the zoo, albeit after the original trip had already occurred.
"We were told there was not a driver to take the child. We can't use that as a reason not to take a child on a field trip. We know that and everyone feels horrible about what happened," Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Donald Andrews told WATE.
Flowers told WBIR that she declined the school’s offer to take Holdan on a separate trip to the zoo, because he wouldn't have spent that time with his fellow classmates.
Ahead of Mobility Awareness month, which is in May, Flowers entered Crawley into a contest so the family could win a wheelchair-accessible van.
“My name is Holdan Crawley. … If I could win this van I could go to fun places like the zoo. ... See I am still full of life and would love to do some of the things 9-year-old little boys like to do,” the contest entry reads, in part.