Parents to rally for special needs students - FOX 13 News

Parents to rally for special needs students

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

For years, Karen Clay felt like she was fighting an uphill battle.

"If you don't fight for your child, nobody else will."

Her son, Michael has spinal muscular atrophy.

Karen says she was constantly fighting to get Michael the education he deserved by law.

When he entered Plant High School, Karen says a school worker assumed his disability extended to his intelligence level.

"There was a woman there that wanted to put him on a special diploma track. She's lucky I didn't go over the table at her. I mean, he graduated with a 4.6 GPA. My son is extremely intelligent, but she had no expectations. She didn't know him," Karen said.

Michael has always been in a wheelchair, but over the last several years, his muscles have deteriorated even more.

But none of that has affected his ability to grow and learn. Through assistive technology, Michael can text and blog. He is an avid photographer. He can also maneuver his robot, that sits in an office, thousands of miles away in California.

Karen believes Michael would never have those opportunities if she had listened to others.

"What you arm yourself with is just the information. You need to know what federal law is, and what your child's rights are. And once you know what your child's right are, chances are your child is going to be successful," Karen said.

That's why Karen is now organizing a Parent Rally. It's set for Thursday, November 29th, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m at the Children's Board of Hillsborough County.

It's all in reaction to the deaths of Jenny Caballero and Bella Herrera, two special needs students, in the last year.

"Once we saw children dying, you can't sit still, you can't sit back and say somebody else is going to take care of it. They're not," Karen said.

Karen says The Children's Board is the perfect place. The Children's Board deals with issues for children, and it's also their legislative summit, where they decide what issues they want to bring to legislators.

Karen says this issue is not just a Hillsborough County School problem.

"Cause every time budgets are cut, who are the ones that are harmed the most? And it's always inevitably, people with disabilities," she said.

She's hoping parents of special needs kids will band together.

If you want to go to the rally:

The Children's Board of Hillsborough County
1002 E. Palm Avenue (Ybor City)
Tampa, FL 33605

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