Parents of special needs children alarmed by deaths - FOX 13 News

Parents of special needs children alarmed by deaths

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

When 4-year-old Brookynn Santos headed to school for the very first time, her parents, just like any other parents, were nervous.

"Last year was a hard time to let her go, and I had a hard time just leaving her there," said Shawn Santos.

But Shawn and Jayson Santos had a different set of issues to worry about. That's because Brooklynn has spinal muscular atrophy.

"She's just weak. She can't walk, she can't crawl you know she can roll over a little bit, she has issues raising her arms up," said Shawn Santos.

The Santos's say they ultimately came to trust the staff at Robinson Elementary, but new developments within the Hillsborough County School district have them worried.

"It makes me sick, it makes me sick, and it makes me not want to put Brooklynn on the bus," said Shawn Santos.

There have been four incidents that involved special needs students at schools and on school buses this year.

In late October a bus driver was accused of kicking an autistic girl off the bus at Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary fracturing her ankle.

Also in October, a temporary teacher was accused of shoving a shoe in the face of an autistic boy at Seminole Heights Elementary.

The other two incidents were fatal.

Eleven-year-old Jenny Caballero drowned after walking away from Rodgers Middle School in October while 7-year-old Isabella Herrera died in January after her parents says she was not properly placed in her wheelchair on a district school bus.

"We mourn along with everybody else when it happens," said Candy Olson, chair of the Hillsborough County School Board.

Olson admits there needs to be changes.

"We need to do a better job of screening and evaluating all our teachers," Olson said.

Olson says anytime there is an incident, they examine their policies and procedures.

"Maybe in light of these incidents, we need to think together with parents about whether we do some of those pieces differently," Olson said.

The Santos's say the school board can start with more training.

"They should always be required to have that continuing education," said Jayson Santos.

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