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Senate bill addresses special book orders

MONTICELLO – For the past 11 years, Brooks Wall has startedschool in August like other students.

Unlike other students, the books he needed for class would notarrive until two months later. And in some cases, a class would beover before the books came, said his mother Julie.

Wall, a junior at Lawrence County High School, is legally blindand requires large print books for class. The problem, however, isthe special books take longer to print and school districts cannotorder them until June because of funding and fiscal year issues,said Dist. 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

“It just appalled me that he never got those books until twomonths after school started,” said Hyde-Smith, who has introduced abill this year to change book procurement procedures.

The bill, entitled the “Brooks Wall Timely Acquisition ofBraille and Large Print Textbooks Act of 2002,” directs schooldistricts to get books for visually and hearing impaired studentsbefore June 1 of each year. The bill has been directed to theSenate Education and Appropriations committees.

Regarding his classroom situation, Mrs. Wall said her son, anA-B student, “falls through the cracks” between being totally blindand being able to see fully. While he can’t get a driver’s license,Brooks sees well enough to be put in a regular classroom, shesaid.

In the past, Mrs. Walls said the family accepted the textbooksituation with the hope that it would get better the next year oron the belief that, because Brooks was the only one, he was beingoverlooked regarding the book purchases. Mrs. Wall, who works inthe Lawrence County School District administration office, foundout that was not the case, and that there was a breakdown in thelaw over funding and when the books could be ordered.

“It takes so long to get them, you’re almost half way into thenext year,” Mrs. Wall said.

Citing statewide statistics, Hyde-Smith said there are 114students who need large print textbooks and 12 who need brailletextbooks for their classes.

“The reason nothing’s been done is because there’s so few outthere,” Hyde-Smith said about why the situation has not beenaddressed sooner.

Mrs. Wall said her husband, Ford, and Hyde-Smith spoke to stateeducation leaders about the situation and about seeking a change inthe law over book procurement.

“We are very thankful she’s taken an interest in Brooks,” Mrs.Wall said about Hyde-Smith.

With her son being a junior, Mrs. Wall said it is almost toolate to help him. However, she was optimistic the bill will helpother visually impaired students in the future.

“This bill will help them,” Mrs. Wall said. “We’re excited aboutthat.”