A Tennessee nine-year-old was told he could not go on a class trip to the zoo because there wasn’t a driver available that could accommodate his wheelchair.
Holdan Crawley was just seven years old when he was hit by a van in a church parking lot. Unfortunately, he suffered a severe brain injury, and now, he is unable to walk and is nonverbal.
“He completely understands what you're saying to him, but he's been nonverbal since the accident,” said Crawley’s grandmother Pam Flowers to WATE News. “We started sending him to school basically for socialization.”
Flowers said the class trip to the zoo was just what their family needed to give Crawley a sense of normalcy amidst his struggles, but when she received the call from a Stone Elementary School employee saying that they couldn’t take the young boy along, she was shocked.
“We've been telling him, really counting down the days until he would go,” said Flowers. “It was just nonchalant that they found a [handicap accessible] bus, but they couldn't find a driver, so Holdan won't be able to go to the zoo. It's just blatant discrimination. It's not fair to him. I want him to be treated just like you would your child.”
Now, Flowers has filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and that apparently scared the school district straight.
“We were told there was not a driver to take the child,” said Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Donald Andrews. “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.”
Flowers says the school offered to take Crawley on a different trip to the zoo, either later in the day or the following week, but Flowers says she wanted her grandson to go with his classmates.
“He wanted to go with his classmates, so I declined,” said Flowers to WBIR News. “I did tell him he would work on that in the future. I still want him to go.”
Flowers has entered a contest in the hopes of winning a handicap accessible van, and so far, she has over 600 votes. She says that if she wins the van, she plans to take her grandson to the zoo.