Video shows teacher crawling into bus, Fresno Unified failed to provide wheelchair access

The union said the teacher was promised a bus with proper accommodations
Friday, February 16, 2024
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno Unified School District is issuing an apology for not accommodating a teacher who uses a wheelchair.

On Friday, the Fresno Teachers Association released a video on Facebook that shows Jackie Esquivel, a teacher at Ayer Elementary, having to crawl onto the bus and to her seat.

She was part of a field trip with students to the Fresno Police Department.

When FTA president Manuel Bonilla saw the video, he said his stomach dropped.

He adds that no one should be treated like this.

"It was an educator that was frustrated and wanting to do the best for her students to go on a field trip," said Bonilla. "But then to also bring attention and awareness."

A statement from the Fresno Teachers Association says there were promises of a bus with proper accommodations but that the district failed to keep them.

"I am tired of being treated as less than by the district. It's not just about me; it's about ensuring that all educators with disabilities are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve," Esquivel said in a statement released by the union.

She added that this has happened on multiple occasions during her time with the district, which is nearly 20 years.

"One of the reasons why I believe that she wanted to get these images out is because she is just tired of being treated in an inhumane way," said Bonilla.

The FTA said an inclusion bus should have been made available to Esquivel.

"She had also been in communication with her site leadership and the district transportation department," said Bonilla, "in order to verify in the weeks and days leading up to ensure that this bus would be available."

Video shows FUSD teacher in wheelchair forced to crawl onto bus

Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson released a video Thursday night apologizing for the incident.

"We want to extend our sincere apologies to the teacher involved and to our entire community, recognizing that this incident doesn't align with our values as a district," he said in the video.

Action News spoke to Nelson after the release of the video showing Esquivel crawling onto the bus.

"It's egregious to not be able to provide the things that people need in order to the baseline functions of their job," said Superintendent Bob Nelson.

Fresno Unified is investigating the incident.

"The original inquiry for a bus did not have the accessibility checked mark made, but then there was a subsequent email that should've gone forward," said Nelson.

"But there was not a connection made between the email that said 'Hey are you going to make sure this bus is right?' connecting that to the trips."

The FTA is calling for the district to increase the availability of inclusion buses, provide comprehensive training on ADA policies for all bus drivers, and put accountability measures in place.

Superintendent Nelson said they're using what happened as a learning opportunity to do better.

The district said it'd also be looking at its own infrastructure, from transportation to buildings, to make sure it's ADA-compliant.

Action News spoke with Disability Rights California, who said what happened is disheartening.

"All of us with disabilities want to be able to have the access that we need," said Eric Harris, the Director of Public Policy.

Harris said it's important to give those with disabilities a seat at the table so that they can help make decisions for a better future.

"Make sure that we are a part of the process of coming up with solutions and policies," said Harris.

Nelson says they have reached out to Esquivel.

"It is not who we want to be as an agency," said Nelson, "we do not want to put people where they have to be anything less than their best self."

Harris said the school district did reach out to Disability Rights California to see how they can improve their policies and practices.

"The disability rights fight is never over," said Harris. "It is continuous."

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