On Tuesday night, the Central Bucks School Board fired three aides accused of allowing an autistic sixth grader to run from the playground at Bridge Valley Elementary School last month.
School Board Vice President Gerri McMullin said it was a personnel matter that could not be discussed in public.
But Nick Lykon, a Plumstead Township resident whose wife, Robin, was among the aides fired, called the move “unexpected, unprecedented, and harsh” while pleading with the board to spare the jobs. He predicts all three women will win their jobs back after a lengthy, costly arbitration hearing.
“These three aides are not the problem,” he said. “There are other issues that could solve the problem.”
In an interview after the meeting, Robin Lykon said the youngster left the playground unattended for about two minutes on Dec. 15. He was spotted at the edge of the school’s driveway and ran into a nearby development with the aides in pursuit, she said.
Mr. Lykon said it was not the first time an autistic student has broken away from aides. He said a three-foot high fence around the playground area for the students is not adequate to keep them contained.
“Without a proper playground, this will happen again,” he said.
Mrs. Lykon, who has worked for the district since 1999, said there were eight autistic students in the playground area at the time. The playground is usually used for kindergarten students, she said.
Mrs. Lykon is a personal care aid who, under state code, is responsible only for the student to whom she is assigned, her husband explained. The other two aides who were fired were educational assistants, he said.
His wife's personnel file contains nothing but positive reviews, he said. Mrs. Lykon said the mother of the student she cares for wants her to keep working with him.
A man who said he was the uncle of the boy who ran out of the playground agreed that it is up to the school district to provide a safe environment for the students.
“His mother raised the issue with the district a year ago and nothing was done,” he said. “You must find the safest, least restrictive environment.”
Mr. Lykon added that his wife’s union said it will fight to overturn the terminations. He said it could take about a year and $120,000 in legal fees to reinstate the women.
The district would be better off spending $20,000 to install a six-foot high fence around the playground that would make it impossible for students to get out unsupervised, according to Mr. Lykon.
“If the district can’t afford to do it, we’ll raise the money,” he said.