79.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 24, 2024


Jan. 3, 2002 – A physically disabled counselor at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School has sued the Education Department and Commissioner Ruby Simmonds charging they have not provided adequate handicapped accessibility to the new school, which is in partial use this academic year while construction work continues.
School counselor Betty Mann Lee claims in her lawsuit that the school is in violation of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires that government buildings have parking spaces for the handicapped located as close as possible to handicapped-accessible building entrances, with accessible routes between them.
Lee, who has had to use a cane and walker since a work-related injury left her partially disabled in 1990, charges in the suit that she has been unable to report to work or perform her duties as counselor because school administrators have not put in the assistive devices required under the federal act.
Apart from the disability that restricts her physically, Lee is fully capable of performing her job, according to the suit, which was filed by attorney James Derr on her behalf in District Court late in December.
The school, pegged with a price tag of $28 million last August by Amadeo Francis of the Public Finance Authrority, is being built to replace the former BCB school, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Initially estimated at $20.5 million Francis told a Senate committee, the cost increased because of changes to the initial plans.
The V.I. government has not yet filed a legal response to the suit, and Education Department officials could not be reached late Thursday for comment on the case.
Lee's suit states that she wants to work but that school administrators have refused to install the needed accessibility features, even after she presented her concerns through a union representative and later through legal counsel. The response from school officials has been to threaten to fire her, she claims.
"Defendants have stated that they have no obligation to provide parking, access and work station accommodations to plaintiff," the suit states.
The suit asks the District Court for preliminary and permanent injunctions ordering school officials to install the accessibility features that Lee needs to perform her job.
No hearing date has been set for the case.
Last August, Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds said it was expected that the school would be completed by December of 2001, but Francis put the completion date at late in Fiscal Year 2002, which ends Sept. 30. While work continues, some classes have continued to meet in the temporary modular units provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.