The Shawnee school superintendent speaks out after a family's fight for their special needs son was made public.
As News 9 has reported, the parents are struggling to get the school playground for their son compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
There are four elementary schools in the Shawnee Public School District. At this point, none of the playgrounds are up to ADA specifications. The Shawnee school superintendent says the district is working to fix that.
ADA compliance at playgrounds is a problem across the state.
"We still see issues like, I can't go to the playground with my friends, I can't get on the equipment with my friends," said Kayla Bower, Senior Attorney at The Oklahoma Disability Law Center.
The playgrounds are barricaded to retain the woodchips, but it's those barriers that have children like 6-year-old Luke Stafford simply looking on as his classmates enjoy his favorite time of day. Luke, who has Cerebral palsy will begin his first day of school Wednesday at Will Rogers Elementary in Shawnee.
"They barricade the area with railroad ties, or plastic ties to fill it with wood chips," said Ken Stafford, Luke's father. "But what they fail to do is install access ramps."
"It was not installed, and I don't have an excuse for that," said Mark Moore, Ph.D., Shawnee's School Superintendent. "It should have been, and hopefully we can look at some of our other playground sites and make sure we don't have a similar situation."
Dr. Moore admits, ADA compliance is a problem at the districts four elementary schools and they're working to resolve it. But, Shawnee isn't alone. According to the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, there are more than 600 school districts across the state that may have schools not fully ADA compliant.
"Most of the time the request is very reasonable, like for example, getting on a playground," Bower said.
"The ramps, we've just asked them to get them to us as quickly as possible," Moore said.
Moore says the district is committed to meeting ADA standards. He's currently working with a consultant to get the districts other three elementary school playgrounds ADA complaint.