Tampa mom fights to keep her disabled son in neighborhood school

Mom: "It's against the law to segregate."

TAMPA, Fla. - Roberta Moore is fighting to keep her disabled son in his neighborhood school.

"I want to understand why this change was made," Moore asked the Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday.

Moore's son Daniel, 10, has Down syndrome. For the last three-and-a-half years, he's been a student at Mabry Elementary School.  

However, on May 22, Moore said she was told he would not be able to return in the fall.  She was told the special needs program he's enrolled in for two of his classes, language arts and math, is being relocated to another elementary school. That meant Daniel had to leave.

Moore believes it's a violation of her son's civil rights.

"It's against the law to segregate.  It's against the law to make a child move from his neighborhood school and segregate him with all disabilities," Moore said. "You can't do that with race, religion, and so you certainly can't do it with cognitive abilities."

Fearing the change will hurt her son's progress, Moore took her complaints to the Hillsborough County School Board.  She also organized a rally outside.

At the meeting, district officials said they are moving the students to Grady Elementary.  However, Moore says she was originally told Chiaramonte Elementary.

George Gaffney, a Hillsborough County Assistant Superintendent, said Grady already has a special needs program in place with certified teachers and that transportation will be provided. He also said the space the children are currently in at Mabry is not really adequate, which Moore disagreed with.

"I've been in those classrooms. They're fine. There are empty desks," Moore said.

But Steve Hegarty, spokesman for Hillsborough County Schools, said the decision is not a done deal. This summer, district officials are planning to meet with Moore to hopefully hash out a plan everyone can agree on.

"We're still meeting with Mrs. Moore and we'll continue to do that until we find appropriate placement. We hope that she's happy and everybody is happy with the outcome," said Hegarty.

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