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Parent left with few options after special needs student removed from Lee Virtual School

Posted at 12:18 AM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 00:18:06-04

LEE COUNTY — A Lee County parent tells us the School District is no longer accommodating special needs students through its virtual program.

Last year, her daughter was enrolled in Lee Home Connect and she said, when that program disappeared, so did her daughter’s ability to learn virtually. We spoke virtually with Tracey Brun and her daughter Elizabeth, and Brun explained her daughter’s condition.

“She’s missing a chromosome, so her brain level isn’t at most children her age," said Brun.

Children like Elizabeth often benefit from in-person instruction. For her, that would be at Cape Coral High School, but with a pandemic going on, Brun said she doesn’t think it’s safe.

“I have four children, and I’m not risking their lives to learn," said Brun.

That’s why the Lee Home Connect program was so helpful for Elizabeth: A teacher on the other side of the screen, guiding her through lessons.

But this year, that program is gone, and the only option left is Lee Virtual School, where students are required to complete assignments on their own.

Brun said, there’s also no accommodation for students like Elizabeth.

“It’s either you do the classes that they enroll every 9th grader in or every 10th grader, and if you can’t do that class, then you’re out, said Brun.

Now Brun says, only a month into the school year, Elizabeth is out. On Friday she received a message from the School District, stating in part “this setting is unable to modify the curriculum to meet Elizabeth’s needs."

“They just removed her without my permission and just left it at that," said Brun.

But when we brought Brun’s concerns to the Lee County School District, we were told there’s nothing it can do, thanks to a rule set by the Florida Department of Education.

The School District said in a statement "We cannot provide or use Lee Home Connect as an instruction model this year because the Florida Department of Education has not approved its use again.”

That means Brun has only two options: Send Elizabeth to Cape Coral High, or teach her at home, neither of which she wants to do.

“Other parents are probably going through the same thing that I am, where they felt forced to put their child in home school or brick and mortar, and I don’t feel that that’s fair," said Brun.

Brun said the School District gave her 10 days to decide if she plans to enroll Elizabeth at Cape Coral High or start home school. She’s still deciding which option would work best.