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Lawrence Co. family on hand as textbook bill becomes law

JACKSON — Lawrence County High School student Brooks Wall andmore than 200 other visually or hearing impaired students like himacross the state will now get their textbooks on time.

During a ceremonial signing Wednesday, Gov. Ronnie Musgroveapproved the “Timely Acquisition of Braille and Large PrintTextbooks Act of 2002.”

“It’s a pleasure to do this,” Musgrove said as Wall, bill authorDist. 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and members of the Wall familywatched the signing.

The act, approved during this year’s legislative session,requires the state Department of Education to place book orders forspecial-needs students before the start the state’s fiscal year onJuly 1. Hyde-Smith said 214 students will benefit from the law.

“It is important to have access to quality education,” Musgrovesaid. “This is one more step to take that gives access to ourpeople.”

The governor presented the family with a copy of the signedlegislation. Hyde-Smith presented the family with a huge plaquecontaining Wall’s name and the bill information.

“It’s the biggest we could find,” the senator said.

Wall said it was an honor to be part of the timely textbookacquisition effort.

“It wouldn’t have happened without Ms. Cindy Hyde and I reallyappreciate it,” said Wall, a rising senior at LCHS.

Julie Wall, Brooks’ mother, said there is a small percentage ofstudents who are legally blind but can function in normal classroomsetting.

“In the past, it’s been a struggle in getting the books duringthe school year,” said Mrs. Wall, adding that it was not uncommonfor a class to be over before the needed textbook arrived.

Despite the textbook time lapse, Brooks is a “solid B” student.Mrs. Walls said Brooks received tutoring help from friends and hiscousin Cabe, who was unable to attend Wednesday’s ceremony.

With her son being a senior next year, Mrs. Wall said thelegislation will help him some, but younger students will see morebenefits from the law. She said the issue was not the mostimportant bills, but she appreciated Hyde-Smith’s persistence inmaking it a reality.

“It is very important to those children who need it,” Mrs. Wallsaid.

Her husband Ford expressed similar comments about Hyde-Smith’sefforts.

“She’s taken it to all the right people,” Ford Wall said. “Sheknew who to get it to to make it happen.”

Hyde-Smith said the timely textbook purchase issue had come upin the legislature before, but she downplayed her role in thisyear’s passage.

The senator met with Kevin Klinard of the Mississippi School ofthe Blind and held hearings with state education officials. Shesaid adequate funding wasn’t the issue but when the textbook moneycould be spent was.

“All we had to do was give them the authority to spend the moneyearlier in the year so they could get the books on time,”Hyde-Smith said.

The bill was originally named for Brooks Wall.

However, during the conference process, lawmakers began addingnames of other special needs students and the title was becomingcumbersome. The Walls said having Brooks’ name the bill was not themost important thing and all students’ names were removed from thetitle, Hyde-Smith said.

Brooks is now making plans for his future education, Ford Wallsaid.

“The next step is college,” said Mr. Wall, adding that Brooks’first choice is Mississippi State University but that he is alsoconsidering some colleges in Virginia.