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Parents Of Special Needs Students Say They Are Being Shut Out Of NYC's Learning Bridges Program

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As New York City schools operate remotely, some parents say a city day care program is turning away students with special needs.

Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced children of essential workers were to be given priority. However, in a story only on CBS2, one mom told reporter Lisa Rozner on Sunday that's not what happened to her.

Criminal defense attorney and single mom Kristin Bruan still has to go to court, some days in person, others at home, but even remotely she cannot do her job as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society and watch after her 9-year-old daughter, Alice, at the same time.

"A 9-year-old child should not be hearing about the things that I am talking about with my clients," Bruan said.

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Because Alice has ADHD and dysgraphia, a writing disability, she said it's difficult to learn remotely in a room alone.

"You have 500,000 toys everywhere, plus 500,000 cool apps on the other tabs," Alice said of the distractions she faces.

That's why months ago, Kristin, who said she's an essential worker, applied for a spot in the city's Learning Bridges program, which offers free in-person child care, disclosing her daughter's disabilities.

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Last week, she learned Alice was accepted into the site run by the Advantage Tennis Club on Roosevelt Island, where she lives. The first day was supposed to be Monday, but at the last minute -- Friday at 4:30 p.m. -- the assistant director e-mailed her saying, "Unfortunately, at this time, we are not able to enroll children with individualized education plans due to limitations with our program staff."

"To have a Learning Bridges center that does not take children with an IEP, despite being exceptionally discriminatory, just doesn't make sense," Kristin said.


And Kristin is not alone, said single mom and social worker Heather Fischer. She also had trouble finding a Learning Bridges program that she could travel to that would take her son, Jordan, who is on the autism spectrum. She polled other parents in the special needs community.

"I've gotten so far 35 responses and the large, overwhelming majority were turned away because they can't be accommodated ," Fischer said.

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As for the Bruan's situation, mayoral spokesperson Avery Cohen told CBS2: "Students with special needs and children of essential workers are priorities for Learning Bridges seats, and this family should not have been turned away. We know how critical childcare is, and we will follow up with the family to find them a site that meets their needs."

So far, no one has reached out to Kristin, who said her family's needs are being treated as far from essential.


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