Our View: Gilbert mother Cheryl Bowe has a reasonable concern about the obstacles she ran into while signing up one of her daughters for swim lessons. But Bowe goes too far when she suggests Gilbert discriminated against 8-year-old Emily because of her lack of sight.
Gilbert mother Cheryl Bowe has a reasonable concern about the obstacles she ran into while signing up one of her daughters for swim lessons. But Bowe goes too far when she suggests Gilbert discriminated against 8-year-old Emily because of her lack of sight.
Tribune writer Blake Herzog reported Sunday that Bowe was allowed to register her other two children for a swim class through a Gilbert Web site. But Emily, as a special-needs child, was expected to visit the pool in person a week early, so parks and recreation officials could assess how much additional help Emily might need. When the scheduled day of that assessment conflicted with the family's schedule, town officials said Emily could come to the first day of class. But that class turned out to be full. Emily didn't get her lessons and Bowe couldn't get her registration fee back, Herzog reported.
Bowe was understandably upset that Emily couldn't learn to swim alongside her two sisters. But the word "discrimination" implies that Gilbert arbitrarily treats special-needs children differently. There's clear justification for Gilbert to learn more about these children before a recreation class starts.
Special-needs children vary greatly in their levels of independence and motor skills. It's reasonable that Gilbert officials would require a specific consultation with the family to gauge what will be involved in assisting a child. Talking beforehand helps recreation planners to match the child with an appropriately trained instructor and increases the level of safety for the child.
That being said, Gilbert might be creating unnecessary challenges with its requirement for an "in-person" consultation. Herzog reported Mesa and Chandler accomplish the same goals with a simple phone conversation with the family.
Adopting that method could save staff time and avoid unintentional conflicts, benefiting both taxpayers and families with special-needs children.