AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Blind mother in APS dispute gets free rides for kids

For more than two months, Daffanie Todd couldn’t send her children to school. Blind since 2013, Todd couldn’t walk them to and from Continental Colony Elementary, half a mile from their southwest Atlanta home. Because they live so close, the school district said the children were ineligible for bus service. So the children, who are 9, 8 and 5, were stuck in the middle – and at home.

That impasse was broken this week – at least temporarily.

On Monday, a private transportation company began picking up the children each morning and bringing them home each afternoon. Five Star Express Transit, based in Conyers, offered free rides after the company’s chief executive saw news reports about Todd’s plight.

Five Star committed to providing the service through December. It did not respond to a request for comment.

Now Todd has time to pursue her lawsuit against the Atlanta Public Schools, alleging the district is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing bus service for her children.

The district argued in court filings that Todd’s disability should not give her children an “advantage” not available to other students who live inside “walk zones,” a roughly one-mile radius in which buses make no stops.

In a hearing last week, U.S. District Judge William Duffey directed lawyers for both sides to try to resolve the dispute out of court. On Tuesday, Duffey denied Todd’s request for an emergency order that would have required the district to send a bus for her children. With the offer from Five Star, Duffey ruled, the matter was moot.

Todd, 37, was diagnosed with a retinal detachment in 2002. Inflammation and glaucoma took the rest of her vision by 2013.

The children’s father lives across town. He said he couldn’t take off work to get them to and from school. Todd did not think the children were safe walking to school along a street with no sidewalks and heavy traffic.

APS said in a statement it is “very sympathetic” and is willing to “work with Ms. Todd to identify other community-based resources for her family.”


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