GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Kristina Carrion’s face lights up when she talks about her youngest daughter. “Her personality is beautiful. She’s never met a stranger.” She says Dezirae, now 13, completed their family. “She’s been a life-changer for me and my husband. She’s literally changed both of our lives for the better.”
Born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus and a seizure disorder, Dezirae spends her days in a wheelchair. She’s been in the special education program at Grand Prairie ISD for years, but this is her first year at Truman Middle School.
At Truman’s “meet the teacher” event, Kristina was surprised to learn that special ed classrooms are on the second floor. She asked the teacher about the emergency evacuation plan and was referred to the assistant principal. “He made this big thing, ‘oh we have this thing, it has a strap, it’s perfect.'”
When Kristina insisted on seeing the device, he brought her to the nurse’s office. “That’s when she pulled this bag out. It looked like a body bag. ‘Oh here it is, this is what we use.'” Kristina said she thought it was a joke.
Dezirae’s parents questioned the practicality of the disposable stretcher. “They said there [are] going to be six men,” said Kristina. “They are going to run to her classroom, put her on this and they’re going to run her down the stairs.” She says the plan raised a lot of questions. “What’s the response time? No one had an answer. Well, who are the six men? I still haven’t gotten an answer on this,” she said. “My biggest fear is my daughter is going to be stuck upstairs by herself.”
Kristina is also worried about what would happen once Dezirae is out of the building. “I said, ‘what happens when you pull her down on this bag? What happens outside? You’re just going to set her on the ground like a dog?'”
Kristina says she complained to the school and district officials but was told the plan is “solid.”
A GPISD spokesman sent us the district’s emergency evacuation procedures for students and staff with disabilities, which says “portable canvas stretchers are issued to each student or staff with a mobility issue.”
According to the document, students with stretchers should participate in practice sessions but not in drills. “Due to the risk of injury, students/staff are not carried down on portable stretchers during practice drills. During a drill, the immobile students/staff meet rescue personnel at the assigned stairwell and wait there until the drill is over.”
Local advocates echoed Kristina’s concerns. A spokesman for the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities says there needs to be a plan in place for reuniting Dezirae with her wheelchair. An attorney who works with Disabilities Rights Texas told CBS11 the details are important, especially identifying the six men along with any alternates. Both groups also said practice is key.
Consumer Justice checked with more than a dozen other districts in North Texas and found most have evacuation chairs situated near stairwells. Prosper ISD uses an evacuation sled, which is similar to the chair. Of the districts we contacted, only White Settlement ISD said it a mat similar to Grand Prairie ISD.
GPISD’s spokesman told CBS11 the chairs “do not allow for the same swift response afforded by portable stretchers.” In an email he wrote “The chairs would be kept in certain areas for reasonable proximity, while stretchers travel with a student everywhere all day.”
The district says its nursing staff recommended the stretchers as the better option to respond as quickly as possible in an emergency.
The disposable stretcher used by GPISD cost $26.79 online while most evacuation chairs start around $1,500. Kristina Carrion says there’s a lot of irony in the district’s small expenditure. “I’m sure they have the money for it,” she said. “They have the money to fund their superintendent’s house – $700,000 home. They have the money to fund her all her stuff that she wanted remodeled.”
Dr. Susan Hull is now moving out of the home because of the controversy surrounding the property. “She says she wants to move out because she doesn’t feel safe in her $700,000 home,” said Kristina. “My daughter’s not safe. How about that?”
The day after Consumer Justice contacted GPISD the district reached out to Kristina; she says nothing has been resolved.
She is planning on speaking at the public hearing about the district’s budget.
That school board meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on August 28.