Having a child with learning disabilities can present many challenges as Miriam and Zev Goldstein discovered when they found themselves facing a particularly difficult situation last year. Their son Tuli had been approved by the Board of Education to receive services at a school of their choice, located 40 miles from their Marine Park home, but because the IEP did not mandate specialized transportation, the Goldsteins had to find a way to get Tuli to and from school every day.
With no other choice, the Goldsteins took turns driving Tuli to school at 6:15 every morning before going to work, in addition to paying a driver a significant wage to bring Tuli home every night. The arrangement was draining, both physically and financially.
Throughout the year, the Goldsteins tried everything they could think of to get Tuli’s transportation approved, but neither they nor their lawyer had any success in getting the Board of Education to reverse their decision.
“It made no sense,” said Mrs. Goldstein. “The city provided reimbursement for the school, so they clearly agreed that the school was a good fit for Tuli, but the Board of Ed still wasn’t willing to pay for transportation. Everything is so black and white for the Board of Ed but real life isn’t always like that.”
The Goldsteins called everyone they could think of and contacted various elected officials and organizations for help, but no one was able to help them and even their lawyer admitted that the situation seemed hopeless. One day, however, their situation turned completely around after an acquaintance suggested that Mrs. Goldstein speak to Leah Steinberg, director of the Agudah’s Project LEARN.
“Mrs. Steinberg explained to me very simply that the request had been denied because the IEP did not specify that our son needed transportation but that there were other ways to get transportation services,” said Mrs. Goldstein.
Instead of dealing with the BOE directly, Mrs. Steinberg spent several days researching and finding a law that proved that the Goldsteins were entitled to transportation. Immediatly Mrs. Steinberg got the OPT to approve transportation not just for the Goldsteins but also for two other families in their community who lived nearby and were dealing with the identical issue.
Not having to worry about Tuli’s transportation has been a game changer for the Goldsteins – both in a financial and emotional way.
“I was driving a minimum of two and a half hours to get Tuli to school and that wasn’t counting the money we had to pay for Tuli’s trip home every day,” said Mrs. Goldstein. “That was just my life and I didn’t really think about it, but having this happen is just the best feeling in the world.”
Mrs. Goldstein acknowledged that other organizations simply had no clue how to proceed, while the Agudah found a way to make things happen. The three sets of parents penned a group letter to Mrs. Steinberg, thanking her for her efforts and sharing how her help has improved their quality of life on a daily basis.
“You helped us even though our lawyer said it was impossible,” wrote the parents. “We can’t possibly thank you enough for arranging transportation for our children. We feel incredibly grateful each morning and each afternoon when the bus pulls up at our homes. We really appreciate how quickly and how efficiently the whole process was taken care of.”