I Fought the Law Part II

Ethan Gets a Cab Ride

The transportation to and from the Bridges school is by “cab.”  This seemed surprising to me until I learned that by cab, they meant an SUV operated by a local transportation service.  I learned from my brother, who at the time worked as a special programs teacher, that the cab services could be extremely unreliable.  We were, however, lucky.  We were assigned a cab through one of the more reliable services.  Ethan had a regular driver, more or less, who showed up on time.  This isn’t true of all of the services.  We do have stories.

We established a schedule with the transportation company. Ethan was picked up at my school between 7:45 and 8:00 and dropped off at a shopping center behind an Olive Garden between 4:45 and 5:00.  Ethan rode with me to my school in the mornings, meaning he was waking up around 5:45 AM.  I picked  him up at Olive Garden in the afternoon. That’s an incredibly long day for anyone, much less a kid with Ethan’s issues.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder struggle with unannounced changes.  Ethan is no exception.  He needs time to prepare for something new, even something fun.  He is knocked back by even small changes, and so when one day the afternoon cab arrived with a substitute driver, well, you can kind of guess where this is going.  Sometimes things just come together, a sort of perfect storm.  This was one of those times.

At some point between 4:30 and 4:45, Melanie received a call from the cab company.  I will try to relay here the facts.

1.The cab driver called.

2.Ethan had done something.

3.The cab could not continue its route.

4.We needed to pick him up.

5.The substitute driver was unfamiliar with the area, so he was unable to explain exactly where he was.

6.We were unable to succeed in contacting the company’s dispatch to get more information.

There was clearly a lot of miscommunication.  Melanie was not able to clearly understand the message.  What we knew was that he was out of his seat.  The driver was required to stop the cab at that point.  They were in a parking lot at a car dealership.  We weren’t sure whether we were to go get him, and if we were, where we were supposed to go?  This was panic time and I usually don’t panic.  We were finally able to ascertain that Ethan was at a Leith car dealership on Capital Boulevard. You have to live in the area to understand exactly how frustrating that information was.  Here’s a map to illustrate.

leith

It became one of those movie moments where the main character has to choose the right place to go to save the day.  He goes on instinct.  There are many Leith car dealerships in our area, but based on what I could put together from the bits and pieces of information, I had a guess.  Having no real idea if I was to go there, or they were coming to me, I headed off into traffic.  I had about 3 miles to go.  It took roughly 20 minutes to make that trip at 5:00PM.

I calculated my search based upon three things: 1. The cab was traveling North. 2. The driver would pull off the road to the right 3. The driver would park in the convenient Leith location on the right.  This Leith place felt like going to a mall.  The building was about as big and there were a lot of cars parked.  I wheeled around the lot avoiding the zombie invasion of salesmen in search of the cab.  Nowhere.  I call Melanie.  I search the lot again.  Still no answer at the cab company.  I go to pull out of the parking lot and I see it.  In a run down used (Leith) car lot across from the new one.  A cab; a police car, and no way to get there.  I am sitting across the street at one of, if not the worst intersections in the area.  It took about 10 minutes to get there.

Ethan’s cab regularly carries about 5 students.  They all, more or less, have behavioral issues.  This was a day that Ethan and another boy were having a fairly heated argument.  The result of which was Ethan out of his seat.  He refused to return to his seat and put on his seatbelt.  The police were called.

I pulled into the lot and saw the police lights’ celebratory twinkles.  So.  Here I am.  My 10 year old son is being arrested by the police.  Well, he wasn’t being arrested, but it was a surreal experience.  At what point does a father think that he will be picking his son up from the police at ten years of age.

I spoke with the police officer for a couple of minutes.  He told me what had happened and that he had spoken with Ethan.  He said, “Ethan assures me that you will take care of this.  I’ll leave this one to the parents.”  I laughed.

Ethan was quiet and scared as we drove home.  I did not yell at him.  I did not do anything other than support him.  I knew that this was not a time to discuss consequence.  I think the conversation with the police officer was enough.  About halfway home I asked Ethan to call his mom.  He was crying and I heard him tell her, “I don’t want to be a criminal.”

Is it bad that this made me chuckle?

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I Fought the Law Part I

Midway through Ethan’s fourth grade year, his principal at Forest Pines Drive Elementary School had seen enough and before we knew it, he was sent to an alternative school in Raleigh called Bridges.  This school wisely chose to remove the special education teacher who regularly checked on Ethan through the day.  They made it so Ethan could choose to check in with him at the end of the day.  Things only worsened.  No Autism teachers, a very young special education teacher, a teacher who left in the middle of the year, all of which caused Ethan stress.  But hey, he’s just a bad kid, right.

Let me step back for a minute.

Melanie and I both work for Wake County Schools.  We live in Franklin County, an adjacent county.  As Wake County Schools employees, we are allowed to send our children to a Wake County school as long as we provide transportation.

So when Ethan was sent slam, bam, thank you ma’am to the Bridges Program, we had no real way to transport him to school.  My wife and I begin work at 7:00AM.  Bridges school would be starting around 9:00AM.  Bridges school is located roughly 30 minutes from my workplace and about 35 minutes from Melanie’s school.  The numbers simply did not work.  So, what to do?  Luckily for us, the Bridges staff was extremely helpful. The Bridges staff informed us that we could apply for transportation services to the WCPSS Transportation Department.  We did.  We were turned down.  But we knew we would be turned down because the Bridges staff said we would be.

Our next step was to appeal to the Transportation Department.  We did.  We were turned down, but as stated above, Bridges told us that would happen.  We applied again, this time to the Superintendent of WCPSS.  If the Superintendent turned us down, we would make a final appeal to the school board.  The Superintendent granted transportation services.  Good guys win.

Too Good To Be True Fact

The Superintendent would later be fired by the school board, in large part to the Superintendent’s handling of transportation.  Not our transportation but the immense failures that occurred with bus situations.

Too Good To Be True Fact II

After being fired, he didn’t stay out of work long.  He was hired, wait for it, as Secretary of Transportation for the state of North Carolina by Governor Pat McCrory.  This is the same Governor who has never responded to any of my questions.  More on that later.