Fair Housing discrimination: the HOA war against the school bus

What takes priority: a community’s right to limit traffic, or the safety of its school children?


By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

Every year when it’s time for children to go back to school, it’s inevitable.

We see reports of homeowners’ associations board members that feel the need to do something about the presence of school buses in their private communities.

Why? What is so horrible about a bright yellow bus or van carting kids to and from school each day?

Here are two real life examples of HOAs that have their priorities way out of whack.


HOA vs. disabled child

What is it with homeowners’ associations and discrimination against children with disabilities?

Last year, the board of Golf Course Estates Homeowners Association decided to prevent school buses from entering the community. Their reasoning behind the new rule: to reduce wear and tear on the community’s private roads.

Never mind the fact that big, heavy delivery trucks continued to travel the HOA’s roads daily, without restriction. Surely, they produce at least as much wear and tear as the school bus.

As it turns out, the HOA’s restriction on school buses applied to one particular student, the autistic child of Erika Hernandez and Paulo Regalado, whose Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) recommends door-to-door transportation of the child to and from school.

But apparently, that didn’t sit well with a majority of HOA board members in January 2018, the timing of the board’s sudden rule change.

For the most of the remaining school year, the student’s parents had to juggle their work schedules to drop off their daughter at school each day. The family ultimately filed a Fair Housing lawsuit against the HOA last May.

What makes this story particularly eye-opening is the fact that one of the HOA’s board members who approved the discriminatory rule is Oregon State Senator Jackie Winters (R). Winters, an African American woman, elected to public service, ought to understand the gravity of violating federal and state Fair Housing Acts.

After the family filed its Fair Housing complaint, and the HOA’s attorney advised the board that its insurance carrier would not cover the cost of litigation, the HOA reversed its “no school bus” rule last May.

Nevertheless, litigation is still pending, with Senator Winters specifically named as a Defendant.

School bus stop at driveway


Salem family sues home association, Sen. Winters over bus for disabled child

Natalie Pate, Salem Statesman Journal

Published 5:24 p.m. PT Aug. 15, 2018 | Updated 5:57 p.m. PT Aug. 15, 2018

The parents of a child with disabilities have filed a lawsuit against a Republican state senator and a Salem homeowners’ board after it banned a school bus from continuing to provide door-to-door service for the elementary student.

Salem residents Erika Hernandez and Paulo Regalado filed the suit in May, claiming the restriction by the Golf Course Estates Homeowners Association violated federal and state fair housing laws.

The suit names the association’s board members, including state Senate Republican Leader Jackie Winters, R-Salem.

The issue began near the start of the calendar year when the homeowners association voted to prohibit Salem-Keizer Public Schools from sending the bus into the subdivision.

The association informed the school district, but the family’s attorney Dennis Steinman said the family was not notified.

Due to her form of autism, the student often wanders, Steinman said. That’s why the parents and school officials outlined instructions in the student’s Individualized Education Program to be picked up at home and taken directly to the school, known as door-to-door service.

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HOA obsessed with its electronic gate and privacy

In their infinite wisdom, local governments planned two adjacent subdivisions on a long and winding road.

Arrowhead Farms was built first, along a main artery road named Omaha Drive. Then, about 15 years ago, Highland Fields was developed to the south. Omaha Drive was extended to the south and west, but renamed Johnston Road. At the time, some Arrowhead Farms residents made a stink about the loss of their dead end road, concerned about an increase in traffic along Omaha Drive.

To understand the controversy in Burr Ridge, Illinois, it helps to look at some Google maps.

Omaha Dr and Johnston Rd in Burr Ridge IL
Omaha Dr and Johnston Rd in Burr Ridge, IL (Google Maps screen capture Aug. 19, 2018) The gate separating Arrowhead Farms from Highland Fields is highlighted by a yellow circle.

So Burr Ridge Village officials agreed to allow Arrowhead Farms HOA to install an electronic gate, separating the two subdivisions. Technically, to prevent Omaha Dr./Johnston Rd. from becoming a short cut between County Line and German Church Roads, the gate is only supposed to be used for emergency vehicles.

But for 15 years, the school district has authorized its bus drivers to ferry school children along the road and through the gate.

Here’s a closer view of the gate.

Arrowhead Farms Burr Ridge IL gate
Arrowhead Farms Burr Ridge IL gate (Google Maps Screen capture Aug. 19, 2018)

School district officials are baffled by the sudden objection to its school bus route. They say that traveling through the gate at Arrowhead Farms makes for a shorter, safer bus route for the children.

But Arrowhead HOA officials complain that because the bus uses the gate every school day, it experiences wear and tear, resulting in break downs. When the electronic opener is not working, school bus drivers must leave the gate open. And that results in drivers using the road as a short cut.

Arrowhead HOA objects to the cost of repairing its gate, too. But that’s the price that homeowners pay for insisting on a private community, with roads closed to the general public.

If Arrowhead HOA is so concerned about restricting traffic, they must accept the added cost of keeping their gate in working order. After 15 years, it’s not unreasonable for the electronic and mechanical parts of the gate to wear out and require repair or replacement.

If the HOA no longer wants to pay for its gate, then homeowners might discuss the possibility of opening Omaha Drive to the public, with Burr Ridge assuming ownership and maintenance. Of course, that would mean more cut-through traffic. But it would also be a lot more convenient for residents of both Arrowhead Farms and Highland Fields.

Whatever Arrowhead Farms HOA decides to do, it should not jeopardize the safety of school children by forcing them to walk to and from the bus stop, along a poorly lit road with no sidewalks and across multiple driveways.

No amount of community pride and vanity over exclusivity justifies discriminating against families with children, who rely on the school bus.


Pleasantdale officials say school buses need to use gate Burr Ridge subdivision residents want closed

Jesse Wright

August 14, 2018  12:45 PM

Pioneer Press
School buses traveling through a gated street separating two Burr Ridge subdivisions has apparently led to complaints from residents, putting Pleasantdale Elementary District 107 officials on the defensive saying the bus route is needed for student safety.

The gate separates Omaha Drive in the Arrowhead Farms subdivision and Johnston Road in the Highland Fields subdivision, both southeast of County Line and German Church roads. It is supposed to be used by emergency personnel only.

However, over the last 15 years the Pleasantdale bus drivers have been ferrying children through the gate, maintained by the Arrowhead Farms Homeowner’s Association, enroute to the elementary and middle schools.

Over the summer, residents complained to village officials that the frequent school bus use causes the gate to break down, forcing it to be left open for emergency personnel and buses but then allowing residents to use it as a shortcut.

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