HARTSELLE, Ala. (AP) — A blind 4-year-old with cerebral palsy is no longer welcome at F.E. Burleson Elementary School after her mother moved a half-mile outside city limits.
Brandy Borden said Superintendent William Michael Reed kicked her daughter out of Burleson after she reported to the school that she was relocating to a home just outside school district lines.
The incident happened Feb. 28. Now Madison Nicole Borden spends her school-day hours with her grandparents.
The family offered to pay out-of-district fees, as do almost 25 percent of the 3,195 students in Hartselle's school system. Any student living outside the city limits is deemed "out of district."
But because of its strong academic reputation, Hartselle reviews hundreds of out-of-district applications annually.
Reed declined Borden's request, saying Hartselle "has never" accepted preschool students who live out of district.
Madison is in a wheelchair and was in a classroom funded by a federal grant for preschoolers with special needs.
She was one of three students enrolled in the special needs class, which now serves only one student.
Morgan County has a similar program at Danville-Neel Elementary, about 15 miles from her home. Its program has about 20 students, a school secretary said.
After Brandy Borden, 28, and her husband separated, she and her two children moved from Kyle Road to a home on Indians Hills Road, about a half-mile from Burleson.
She said the family needed more space because Madison has to use a special chair to bathe.
Reed said dismissing the student "wasn't pleasant" and "I'm just sorry."
The school systems handbook does not preclude the superintendent from allowing Madison to attend. But Reed said he's keeping with previous practice in not allowing preschoolers from outside the district.
"We just have never done it, and I told them they could apply (for out-of-district status) when the student is kindergarten age," Reed said.
Madison will be kindergarten age next school year.
The superintendent acknowledged that some students have moved out of the city limits in the middle of the school term and been allowed to stay as out-of-district students.
If Madison Borden moves back into Hartselle, where her grandparents and father reside, the superintendent said the system would enroll her immediately.
Madison's mother and grandmother said Reed is not being compassionate, and that saying Hartselle has never enrolled a preschooler from outside the district is a weak excuse, especially under these circumstances.
"My God, she was already going to school there," grandmother Penny Robinson said. "She's blind, she needs an IV pump to feed herself, and she doesn't walk or talk."
Robinson said the family offered to pay out-of-district fees for the entire school year.
"Space isn't an issue because there is one student in the classroom," she said. "Her very happiness depends on what people do for her, and she loved this school."
Once Borden found the home on Indians Hills Road, she said she informed school officials of the move because she wanted to do the right thing.
"We probably could have left things as they were and not told them," the mother said.
Borden said she works in Cullman and did not have time to make arrangements to get Madison to Danville-Neel for the final three months in the school term.
"I have not officially withdrawn her from the Hartselle system because I hope she can get back in school there one day," Borden said.