Do You Remember The Ford Pinto?

The following is from Wikipedia

In 1977, the Pinto’s structural design allowed its fuel tank filler neck to break off and the fuel tank, in rare occasions, to be punctured in a rear-end collision, resulting in deadly fires from spilled fuel. According to a 1977 Mother Jones article, Ford allegedly was aware of the design flaw, refused to pay for a redesign, and decided it would be cheaper to pay off possible lawsuits for resulting deaths.

Why do I bring up the Ford Pinto? Because this was what I was reminded of as I listened to parents address the Beaumont Unified Shool Board this week. Two parents told the board of the difficulties they were having trying to get services for their children who have special needs. Sound familiar? Cheryl Burge spent months trying to get the district to provide the services her son needed. After both sides hired attorneys and held hearings, Cheryl and the district settled.

One parent, during his 3 minute address to the board about the problems he was having with the district, played a portion of a recording he had on his phone. He could have used more than three minutes to make his case but he wasn’t aware that he could request more time and Board Vice President Mr. Hackney, filling in for an absent Board President Mrs. Lara, didn’t offer him any additional time. How’s that new 3 minute policy working out for us? Seems to be working great for Dr. Kayrell, who I am sure didn’t want to hear any more of the recording.

The recording was made during a meeting held between the family and the district’s representatives to discuss the services their daughter, recently diagnosed as mildly autistic, needs from the district. Her father told us that both sides were recording the meeting but the district’s representative wasn’t aware the family’s phone was still recording when they left the room. The quality of the recording played from his phone at the board meeting wasn’t very good but we were able to pick up some embarrassing comments made by the district’s representatives.

The next parent to address the board, has a daughter recently diagnosed with dyslexia. He also spoke about difficulties he was having with the district to get his daughter’s needs met.

As pointed out by a third speaker, the district’s policy appears to be to deny services, or offer very limited services, to these families until they hire lawyers, hold hearings and force the district to settle. The district seems to have taken the position that the legal cost of being forced to provide the requested services is cheaper than doing what’s right. I am sure for every family that hires legal counsel to fight the district there are more that aren’t able to afford the fight and go away quietly. It would be interesting to see a report of all families who have made similar requests.

The district's structural design, like the Pinto's, is flawed. How long are we going to allow this to continue? When is one of our board members going to say this is enough and it must stop? When will our administration be held to a higher standard than meeting minimum legal requirements? The standard should be doing what is right.