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Woman ends flagpole vigil after promise from district

Saturday, September 02, 2000

By Janice Crompton, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The mother of a Washington County special needs student yesterday ended her five-day vigil strapped to a flagpole after McGuffey School District officials promised to hire a teacher of the deaf for her son.

Deanna Lesneski, 47, of Buffalo, said district Director of Special Education Sheryl Fleck promised on video that the district would make a full-time nurse available and hire a teacher with a master's degree in education of the deaf for 7-year-old Ryan "Max" Lesneski, who has Down syndrome, asthma and a hearing disability.

The teacher, who Lesneski said she met yesterday, also has two years' experience as a therapeutic staff support person and behavioral specialist for the deaf. The nurse will be responsible for administering Max's medication.

Lesneski said she will meet with Fleck and other district officials Tuesday.

She said Fleck promised that if the agreement was unsatisfactory, she could return to her protest after the meeting.

Lesneski said state Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Society for the Deaf officials visited her yesterday and urged her to accept the agreement.

They plan to review the agreement for compliance with a pact ironed out in February between the Lesneskis and the district.

"I felt secure in my decision to temporarily leave until Tuesday," said Lesneski. She said that although she's hopeful the deal will work out, she still plans to bring a lawn chair and jump ropes -- the items she used Monday to affix herself to the flagpole at Blaine-Buffalo Elementary School -- just in case.

Lesneski's protest was sparked when Max had an asthma attack in school Monday and Lesneski said district officials informed her they would not be administering Max's medications this year -- allegations the district denied.

Lesneski maintained the district mishandled her son's education by not providing him with a qualified sign-language interpreter, as required by federal law, and by refusing to administer his medications.

She vowed not to end her protest, which drew dozens of supporters, until the district had a contract with a proficient sign-language aide.

For now, Lesneski said, she's happy with the agreement, and eager to get back home.

"I want to get a shower so bad I can't stand it," she said.

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