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New Rochelle School System Unilaterally Suspends Busing for Out-of-District Special Needs Students Over February Break

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New Rochelle School System Unilaterally Suspends Busing for Out-of-District Special Needs Students Over February Break

February 21, 2016 - 19:30
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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Parents of special needs students in New Rochelle were shocked last week when their children came off their school bus Tuesday afternoon and told their parents that the bus driver said there would be no further busing provided for them for rest of the week.

While public schools throughout New York State were on holiday for the annual February Break, the Windward School remained in session. Windward, located in White Plains, NY, is a private school for children with dyslexia and language-based learning disabilities, grades 1 through 9. More than a dozen New Rochelle students attend Windward.

According to parents of Windward students, based on emails obtained by Talk of the Sound, New Rochelle Transportation Director Dianna Wessel decided to suspend bus service from New Rochelle to and from Windward School on her own authority and without prior notice. Parents who called to complain were advised that it was up to them to provide transportation for their children when the public schools are on break.

"I spoke to her briefly myself," said one parent in an email to other parents. "She had strong views that because we pay to send our children out of district that it should be our problem [to provide transportation when New Rochelle schools are on break] but her legal team advised her otherwise."

Mile Square Transportation appears not to have been notified of Wessel's decision until after the morning run on Tuesday. Parents say they never received any direct or formal notification from the New Rochelle school district that bus service was suspended, even after they complained.

"When I asked her how people would know, [Wessel] said they wouldn't unless they called her," said one parent. "Really unbelievable."

There may be a legal issue involved since a number of the kids who were denied busing for the week had Individualized Education Plans. Depending on the IEP, the denial of transportation services may be a violation of the student's civil rights.

After complaints from parents throughout the week Wessel issued a statement to parents.

"As of today this office was just informed that we should provide transportation based on the individual schools calendar.  The bus will run as of tomorrow 2/19/16."

Wessel added "There can be no transportation however on legal holidays," as if that issue was among the concern of parents. It was not.

Wessel has had issues in the past. She was arrested in March 2010, shortly after being promoted to Transportation Manager and charged by New Rochelle police with Driving While Intoxicated. According to sources with knowledge of the arrest, a search of the vehicle turned up marijuana. The police report shows the vehicle was impounded. Wessel struck three parked vehicles before her vehicle rolled over landing on the roof. Wessell exited the vehicle on her own with no significant injuries.

Talk of the Sound is aware of other significant issues with Wessel's judgement and those have been relayed confidentially to school authorities.

EDITOR'S NOTE: if you are the parent of an out-of-district student and have additional information please email [email protected].

UPDATE: Parents have informed Talk of the Sound that busing was provided to students at Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy (SAR Academy) but not provided to students at Westchester Day School.

UPDATE: Some Windward parents say their children have "bus transport" on their IEPs. One Windward parent reports being told by Mile Square that the district called them to cancel the busing at Windward. 

UPDATE: A Thorton Donovan parents says district does not provide transportation on days when public schools are closed.

QUESTIONS

What prompted Mile Square Transportation to tell students there would be no more buses all week on Tuesday afternoon?

What happened in the past? Is Windward always open during February Break, what made 2016 different?

Was there any advance warning to Mile Square, to Windward, or parents?

Was there any formal notification before, during, after this week?

Some youngsters have IEPs, were any of them places at Windward by the district? Is transportation service included in any of the IEPs?

What grades at Windward were impacted? Elementary School? Middle school? Any schools other than Windward impacted?

Why did Wessel wait three days to get legal advice, reverse herself on Thursday evening? Why no apology or explanation?

Why was Wessel permitted to keep her position following her arrest and subsequent conviction on DWI-related charges given the nature of her position?