Friday, December 21, 2007

Off the Short Bus - Conflict between parents in the Special Olympics

Off the Short Bus
Steve Fleming fought to make his Special Olympians equal, and that got
him torched
By Jesse Hyde
Published: September 13, 2007

Mark Graham
"It was amazing seeing how those kids felt in those uniforms and
shoes versus what they had," Fleming says. "And I realized something,
these kids can do more if you push them."
Steve Fleming turned the Flower Mound Mustangs into a golf
powerhouse. At one tournament, they took gold, silver and bronze.
Fleming made sure his teams looked good for competitions. "Don't
tell me they don't know the difference," he would say.

Subject(s): Special Olympics, Flower Mound, Lewisville, basketball

On this much, everyone agrees: Steve Fleming was unlike anything the
Special Olympics had ever seen.

At 6 foot 3 and 240 pounds, the former Marine had an imposing
presence. He was also black, and in the 23-year history of the
Lewisville Special Olympics delegation, there had been few, if any,

What made him unusual, however, was his philosophy. He didn't believe
that his kids were special. Sure they were special, as any kid is, and
yes, they had special needs, but he wasn't going to treat them
differently than he would any other athlete. Instead, he would treat
them like they were "normal."

And so he recruited, he drew up plays, he yelled—he even encouraged
his players to talk trash. It wasn't rare to see him playing right
alongside his players—swatting shots, hitting fadeaways, talking smack
the whole way. In his words, he brought the "black funk" to the
Special Olympics.

He also brought a new attitude. He taught the players to have pride in
themselves. "They're athletes, all right?" he would say. "They may not
be able to perform at the level of the varsity basketball player, but
they're still athletes, and I want to treat them like they're athletes."

For Fleming it was simple: Give a kid a gray T-shirt and a bologna
sandwich, and he'll play like a Special Olympian. Hook him up with new
gear, make sure he has Gatorade to drink, and you'll be amazed at his

One day in practice, for example, he noticed a player laboring to get
up the court. Fleming called her over and asked her what was wrong.
"My feet hurt, coach," the girl said. Fleming took a look at the
girl's shoes, and there he found the problem. The girl was wearing one
shoe from K-Mart and another from Wal-Mart.

So Fleming called up Nike and said, "I'm sure you get people all the
time asking for donations. I don't want that. Just give me a deal on
some discontinued items." The Nike rep was stunned. Never before, in
20-odd years, had he heard a request like that. So he agreed to give
Fleming some shoes. Not just for the girl with the mismatched
sneakers, but for the entire team.

Suddenly, the girl who couldn't run was flying up and down the court.
The same thing happened when Fleming convinced Nike to outfit his team
with silky new uniforms and warm-up suits. A boy who could never hit a
shot, now decked out in his new gear, went to the top of the key and
drained five jumpers in a row. Fleming couldn't help but smile.

It was hard to argue with his results. In his first year as basketball
coach, his team won the state championship. And they didn't just win.
At times, Fleming had to play three-on-five to keep it competitive.

Despite his success, not everyone was pleased. To some parents,
Fleming's emphasis on winning seemed to fly in the face of everything
the Special Olympics stood for. For many kids, the Special Olympics
was their only social outlet. If Fleming made it too competitive, they
would have nowhere else to go.

Plus, some of the kids on his team, well, they hardly seemed
"special." The trash-talking, the swagger—the worldliness, as one
parent put it—it all seemed so out of place in the Special Olympics.
It was like he had brought the cutthroat world of Texas youth sports
into the last arena where kids could still play just for fun.

The Lewisville delegation was divided. Half the parents believed in
what Fleming was doing. Thanks to him, their children were performing
at levels they never thought possible. The rest wanted him gone.
Eventually, the delegation, 120 families strong, would split in two:
Half the parents would follow Fleming to form a new group, called the
Flower Mound Mustangs, and the other half would stay behind to pick up
the pieces.

Today, Fleming is out of Special Olympics altogether. In July the
Special Olympics banned him for a year and disbanded his start-up
delegation, the first time in recent memory either has happened in Texas.

As a result, some of the athletes that followed Fleming are now in
limbo. Their parents say the old delegation won't welcome them back,
and without another place to play, they aren't sure where they will go.

But Steve Fleming remains unapologetic. His methods, he is convinced,
while controversial and unorthodox, are the most effective way to help
kids with mental disabilities. "You aren't doing your kids any favors
if you treat them with kid gloves," he says. "At some point, they're
going to have to go out in the world, and if they're not ready,
they'll get their teeth kicked in. So I try to treat them as much as
possible like regular kids."

As strange as it sounds, he may be right.

To understand how Steve Fleming got in this mess in the first place,
you have to meet his son, Steven Fleming Jr. On weekdays after school
you will find him on the football field with the Hebron Hawks. If he
works hard enough, he might play varsity next year.

That is something of a miracle. The boy has the size. At 6 foot 4 and
240 pounds, he is now taller than his father. He can anchor a
defensive line, like he did last year. But playing tight end, like the
16-year-old is this year, requires smarts. The boy may be many things,
but smart is not one of them. He has an IQ of less than 70.

That he is playing high school football is a tribute to his parents,
and especially his father, who has made it a point to pass on every
bit of his athletic knowledge to his son.

It's been that way since the boy was in the first grade. At the time,
the Flemings were living in Cleveland. One spring afternoon, while
most kids were outside playing, Fleming came home to find his son
sitting on the couch. Fleming asked his son why he wasn't outside
playing. "No other kids will play with me," the boy said. They said he
was too dumb.

"Man, that cut me like a knife," Fleming says. "So I made a decision
right then and there that from then on, he would have someone to play
with, no matter how tired I was."

Fleming had known his son was slow since the boy was 2, but he had
been in denial. Part of it, Fleming says, was fear. He had been shot
at, been in fights, been unable to pay his bills, but he had never
faced a challenge like this one. "What did I know about raising a
special needs child?" he asks. "I was terrified."

Once Fleming realized how far behind his son was in school, he and his
wife did everything they could to help him, even investing thousands
of dollars on teaching aides and tutors.

Fleming also believed in the power of sports to build self-esteem—he
had played football in college and came from a family where much of
life revolved around sports—and so he began teaching his son how to
dribble a basketball, catch a football and swing a golf club.

In Cleveland, the Special Olympics program was small and disorganized.
It wasn't until the family moved to Lewisville seven years ago that
Fleming and his son became heavily involved in the Special Olympics.

At first, he wasn't impressed with what he saw. It looked like play
time. No structure, no guidance; in his words, "just a bunch of kids
running up and down the court."

To Fleming, sports were fun, but they were also about discipline. He
had spent five years in the Marines, and if the experience had taught
him anything, it was that success came only after hard work.

He volunteered to coach the Special Olympics basketball team his son
was on, which happened to be one of the lowest-level teams.
Immediately, things changed. He ran drills. He made the kids run
"suicide" wind sprints. If someone made a mistake in practice, he
stopped play to explain what they had done wrong. He also taught
discipline and respect for the game. Talking trash was fine in
practice but never in a game or to an opposing player. Talking back to
refs would not be tolerated.

Despite his athletic background, he found it difficult to get through
to the kids. Simple concepts like switching from one diagrammed play
to another were hard for them to grasp. His point guard, for example,
couldn't figure out what to do when the defense adjusted to a certain

One day, while running practice, he had an idea. So he called his
point guard over. "David," he said. "Do you watch TV?" The boy nodded.
"When you watch something you don't like, what do you do?"

"I change the channel, coach."

"That's right, you change the channel. Here's what I want you to do.
When you're out there and you see something you don't like, you change
the channel, OK? You've got two channels: play one and play two. When
you see that one don't work, just change the channel."

And like that, it clicked. Finally getting through to his players,
Fleming felt a joy he had never experienced in coaching.

At the time, Fleming was traveling a lot for work and periodically had
to leave his team in another coach's hands. One day after practice, a
parent approached him. "Steve," the parent said, "I don't think you
realize when you're gone how big a difference it makes to these kids.
It's totally different when you're here."

That was the first time Fleming had any indication that what he was
doing was working. Complete validation would come that year at the
state games in Waco. By this time, Fleming had secured the new
uniforms and shoes from Nike.

"We go down there, and we hadn't won a game," Fleming recalls. "It was
like watching a third-rate racehorse finally turned loose—we couldn't
hold them back. We won every game.

"It was amazing seeing how those kids felt in those uniforms and shoes
versus what they had. It was unbelievable how they responded. And I
realized something, these kids can do more if you push them."

Not everyone was happy. One day in practice Fleming looked up to see a
group of parents in the stands talking to each other. "What's going
on?" he asked another coach. "They're trying to start trouble with
you," a parent said. "They think you're pushing the kids too hard."

But Fleming wasn't going to stop. His kids were more than catching on;
they were really beginning to believe in themselves. After they won
the state championship the next year they told Fleming they were ready
to take on a team full of "normal kids."

So Fleming called up SMU and asked if he could bring a team to the
summer basketball camp. If he slowed the camp down in any way, he
would take his team home, he promised.

The opposite happened. His kids were embraced. And when it came time
for the tournament that would end the camp, two of Fleming's top
players were drafted to the championship team. Fleming himself was
coaching one of the teams, matching wits with a Division I college
coach on the opposite sideline. As he puts it, he was in "hog heaven."
It only got better when one of his players hit the game-winning shot.

When Fleming returned from the camp, there was trouble waiting for
him. The board, a group of volunteer parents who oversaw the
delegation, wanted to know why he had only taken his team to the camp.
Why hadn't he invited the delegation as a whole?

And there were other complaints. One parent said he was bumping white
players from his team in favor of black ones. Those who played on his
team also got special treatment. On tournaments where traveling was
required, for example, he often bought them dessert while other kids
in the delegation had none. To Fleming, this was his way of rewarding
his players for their hard work. But other parents didn't see it that
way. In their minds, he was only interested in helping the most
capable of athletes. In the "lower-functioning" kids, he had no interest.

Fleming couldn't believe it. He had raised money for the organization,
he had volunteered countless hours, he had even spent money out of his
own pocket to take care of his team. And for what? A bunch of
ungrateful parents.

If they wanted him out of the organization, he would go.

There is another side to this story. That Fleming was an egomaniac, a
man obsessed with winning at all costs, who would push aside anyone
who didn't agree with him, whether they were parents who had been
coaching for years or players who weren't good enough to make his
team. He not only split the delegation in two, a delegation that had
existed peacefully for more than 20 years, they say, he drove parents
and their children away with his abrasive, and at times abusive,
personality. According to several parents, he made physical threats,
warning one school administrator that he would "kick his ass" if he
ever messed with his son. There are some members of the delegation who
say they fear him and will not be a part of Special Olympics if he is

Because Steve Fleming isn't the only person in trouble with the
Special Olympics, because the entire Lewisville delegation is on
probation, none of the parents involved with the delegation, be they
supporters of Fleming's or detractors, would speak on the record for
this story for fear that they would be blacklisted by Special Olympics

"You've got to understand," one parent says. "If we get kicked out,
our kids have nowhere else to go. This is the only game in town."

Parents on both sides will agree that the problems started long before
Fleming came into the picture. For at least eight years, there were
complaints about the delegation's head, an adaptive physical education
teacher with the Lewisville Independent School District named Jim Domer.

Domer had helped start the delegation, but, according to several
parents, he did little if anything as head of the delegation, even
though the Lewisville school district was paying him a stipend on top
of his regular salary for his work with Special Olympics. According to
these parents, he often forgot to schedule buses to take kids to
tournaments, he failed to have gyms open for practices and he
sometimes showed up late for events. "I wasn't really sure what he
did," says the mother of an autistic child who was part of the
delegation for nearly 10 years. "All I knew was he was this guy who
was always standing around talking to people, but as far as what his
job was, I had no idea."

"Everyone did his job for him," says another mother who had been in
the delegation for nearly 15 years. "There was no real responsibility
there, even though the school district was paying him."

In the late '90s, a group of parents organized what one would describe
as a "coup attempt" to have Domer removed. When that failed, the
parents decided that they would have to make the best of a bad situation.

Other parents saw things differently. They saw Domer as a caring man
who knew each of their children well. Sure, he made mistakes here and
there, but they were minor. For the time he put in, they felt like he
went above and beyond the requirements. (Domer would only reply to
questions via e-mail and didn't respond to more than half, because, in
his words, he saw no point in responding to negative personal attacks.)

When Fleming came along, things began to change. "He brought a fresh
attitude. He started to question things. He wondered why our kids
weren't treated the same by the school as regular athletes were," says
one mother. "It sort of opened our eyes."

As a coach, and later, as an elected member of the board that oversaw
the delegation, he recruited new kids into the program, focusing
especially on minorities, which, according to Fleming, had been
ignored under Domer. He put on the delegation's first ever basketball
clinic, scoring sponsors to supply the water and cater lunch as well
as a coach from SMU to run the clinics.

Over time, he built a relationship with SMU. Members of his delegation
were ball boys at SMU basketball games, and during football season
they had tailgating events with SMU athletes and cheerleaders.

"He brought in corporate people, landed sponsorships we didn't have
before," says another mother. "He was exposing our kids to more than
just the occasional competition and getting a medal. There was much
more social interaction, and the kids loved it."

As the program grew in ambition, Domer's responsibilities became more
important. On a number of occasions, say Fleming and his supporters,
the Lewisville coach dropped the ball. One of the most egregious
examples, at least in Fleming's mind, was the basketball camp held in
2005. For weeks, Fleming had worked to set up the clinic.

According to Fleming, he had told Domer well in advance about the
camp. As head of the delegation, it was Domer's job to schedule the
gym. A few days before the camp, Fleming stopped by the gym to make
sure everything was set up. To his shock, the gym hadn't even been
scheduled. What was worse, a remodeling project was set to commence
that week.

Fleming says he got on the phone, and after a conversation with the
school's principal, averted disaster. The camp went off without a
hitch. He was furious, but he says when he complained to Domer, he was
met with indifference. "What's the big deal?" he says Domer told him.
"It all worked out."

Fleming and his supporters had had enough. In November 2005, the
president of the volunteer board that oversaw the delegation wrote a
letter to the head of the school district's special education
department complaining about Domer.

While Domer's supporters would see the letter as an attempt to get him
fired, those who wrote it say this was not their intention. Instead,
they say they were hoping that the district could help him perform his
job better.

When word of the letter spread, parents who had not been consulted
about it, and who had been in the delegation for years, were furious.
"They didn't speak for me," says one mother. "Could Jim Domer have
done things a little better? Absolutely. But you have to remember that
he had a full-time job and that's teaching special needs kids every
day. He cared about those kids, and his heart was in the right place."

"We're all volunteers, everyone's doing the best they can, and all of
a sudden they're treating this thing like it's a Fortune 500 company
and Jim's the CEO," says another father. "His job was sort of like
being the Scoutmaster for five troops. He was responsible for 100 to
120 people in 10 sports. He needed some help, not people trying to
tear him down."

At a meeting several weeks later, tensions that had been bubbling for
years between the two groups finally erupted.

"It was like a bad wedding," says one parent who was there. "You had
one group sitting on one side and another group on the other."

At one point, according to several parents, Steve Fleming and a female
supporter of Domer's got into a shouting match just inches from each
other's faces. Others said the yelling between parents spilled into
the parking lot after the meeting.

The bickering would continue for months, until finally, Special
Olympics Texas and the Lewisville school district decided that the
only way to resolve the matter was to split the delegation in two.
Domer's supporters would remain in the original Lewisville delegation.
Fleming's would become the Flower Mound Mustangs.

For a few months, this arrangement worked, but before long, the two
groups were back at it. The Lewisville delegation accused Fleming's
new group of recruiting athletes from their delegation. Then they
accused them of stealing uniforms and gear. What was worse, Fleming
was refusing to share uniforms Nike had given him. The equipment was
donated to him, he insisted, not the delegation. Special Olympics
Texas put both delegations on probation, meaning their athletes could
continue participating in Special Olympics events but that if things
didn't change, the delegations would be suspended.

But the problems didn't stop. First, three of the five starters on
Fleming's state championship team were arrested on charges of auto
theft. The whispers began. If these kids were smart enough to steal
cars and take them to a chop shop, should they even be in the Special
Olympics? (Fleming says only one of the boys was actually charged and
that the boy stole a car so he could buy oxygen for his ailing
grandmother. Fleming kicked all three boys off the team.) Then Fleming
blew up at the State Games, causing something of a scene when his
depleted team was seeded higher than he thought fair. The Special
Olympics had seen enough. In May, on what seemed like a trumped-up
technicality (inability to fill out paperwork and the creation of an
unapproved Web site), they banned him from the organization for a year
and suspended his delegation.

The dispute would make the front page of The Dallas Morning News in
August. The article, which appeared under the headline, "Parents
Fighting Leaves Special Olympics in Limbo," drew several letters to
the editor. "I am appalled at these overly competitive parents," one
reader wrote. "It seems to me that it is the parents, not the
children, who lack sufficient brainpower. Get a grip!"

From the outside looking in, the ugly affair—which climaxed in threats
of lawsuits and allegations of racism and theft—does seem one more
example of parents pushing their children too far. But local special
education experts say it actually represents something else—progress.

"If there's a silver lining in this whole thing, it's that parents are
having this argument about kids with disabilities. Going back 20 years
ago people really perceived students with disabilities as being
largely incapable of athletic activity, among other things," says
David Chard, the dean of the education program at Southern Methodist

For much of the last century, children with mental disabilities were
viewed as a lost cause when it came to education. It wasn't until 1975
that the federal government, under a law called the Intellectual
Disabilities Education Act, required states to educate the mentally
retarded. Up until that point, some states refused to let special
needs children through the school doors.

"Special education really rode the coattails of the Civil Rights
Movement," says Tandra Tyler-Wood, an education psychology professor
at the University of North Texas. "In fact, a lot of the language they
used came directly from civil rights leaders like Dr. King. When you
look at some of the things he wrote, you'll see that he wasn't just
talking about black children, he was talking about all children."

The Special Olympics, which was founded in 1962 by Eunice Kennedy
Shriver, represented a watershed moment for the movement. "With the
Kennedys, I think because they were Camelot, they gave us the idea
that it's OK to have a child who is mentally handicapped. Because
until that point, if you had a child that was mentally retarded it was
sort of your fault and you just kept that kid in the back closet."

Since the mid-1990s, the movement has been toward inclusion, or
mainstreaming, which means placing children with mental disabilities
in regular education classrooms. This can mean rearranging the
curriculum or having special aides in the class to accommodate
students with learning disabilities or more difficult mental
challenges. Several states—and local districts, including Irving and
Dallas—have experimented with this idea, to mixed results. Some say
inclusion is the best way to prepare for the real world, but skeptics
say it doesn't work, that regular-ed teachers aren't equipped to deal
with a child who is mentally handicapped. As a result, special needs
children in standard classrooms often don't get enough attention, or
they get too much, impairing the education of everyone else in the class.

Tyler-Wood says Fleming's philosophy of treating special ed kids as
normally as possible would be applauded by proponents of the inclusion
movement. His contention that winning and "looking sharp" often
matters as much to the mentally retarded as it does to "regular" kids
is an opinion Tyler-Wood shares, and one that is backed up by research.

"Years ago I coached a Special Olympics basketball team that won the
district tournament, and that meant so much to the kids," she said.
"They had their names announced on the intercom, and they were heroes
in the school for once in their lives. People were going around
slapping their hands and saying, 'Way to go, you actually put our
school on the map.'

"They had a school dance—none of them had ever gone to the school
dance—and all of a sudden, people were asking them to dance. It was a
miraculous breakthrough.

"How do you measure something like that? What makes a person
successful in life? Quite honestly the reason people who are mentally
retarded don't keep jobs is not because they can't read well or
because they can't write well, it's because of their social skills.
And really, that's what special education is about. It's about maximum
integration into the greater society."

Nancy Meadows, director of the Alice Neeley Special Education
Institute at Texas Christian University, has also seen the benefits of
expecting more out of children with developmental disabilities. At TCU
she helps run an early intervention program called KinderFrog for
children with Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities. By
the time children leave the program, at the age of 6, they are ready
to enter an inclusive setting with typically developing children.

"We fully recognize that they have disabilities, but we have high
expectations, the parents have high expectations, and if we didn't,
they wouldn't achieve as much," Meadows says.

Meadows can empathize with Fleming and his supporters—parents who
choose to enter her program are often second-guessed by other parents
with special needs children. "It's the same argument among parents who
choose to have their children included with regular education kids and
parents who choose to have their kids in a more private, more
self-contained setting, in a more protective environment. It's a very
personal decision."

The most important thing, Meadows says, is to find an educational
environment that works for the child.

But Meadows also stresses that the spirit of Special Olympics is one
of participation. If that is lost, and kids aren't having fun, it
loses its value. The same could be said of all youth sports, Chard
says, whether the participants are disabled or not.

"I think the really exciting aspect of this, again, is that parents
are having this argument in the first place," Chard says. "It sounds
like an argument any group of parents about any group of children
could be having. How much do you want your child to be in a
competitive sport and at what age? And it's exciting that today
parents with children who have disabilities are asking themselves
these questions, because even 20 years ago, that wouldn't have happened."

A month has passed since Steve Fleming was kicked out of the Special
Olympics and his Flower Mound delegation was disbanded. Some parents
who followed him still don't know what the future holds. They say the
original delegation, which is also on probation, has been less than
welcoming. In one case in particular, they denied a boy's bid to
rejoin the delegation after he'd left for Flower Mound. The reason?
His father is a troublemaker.

Members of the Lewisville delegation say they are trying to put the
past behind them. They say that things are better now that Fleming and
his supporters are gone. The group made mountains out of molehills,
they say, specifically when it came to Domer. The last few months,
parents say, have been especially hard on Domer, who was one of the
delegation's founding members 25 years ago.

If there are any questions about his dedication, they point to the
fact that he has given up his district-paid stipend to continue
running the delegation.

"Our delegation chooses to focus on continuing to provide sport
activities and opportunities for the Special Olympics athletes, which
is why we are here. There are a tremendous number of families who
devote countless hours to this organization and who also want to move
forward and focus on the athletes, consistent with the Special
Olympics mission," Domer wrote in an e-mail.

The most important thing, Domer's supporters say, is that their
children are having fun again. That, they say, is the true spirit of
the Special Olympics.

"We just want our kids to go out there and do their best and have fun
and feel good about themselves. You have to remember that for most of
these kids, this is the only place where they can go and feel good
about themselves. And it's the only outlet for their parents to be
around people who understand what it's like to raise a special needs
child," says one mother. "We don't care if the kids win or they have
the most expensive uniforms on the planet, and honestly, neither do
the kids."

But other parents wonder. They say Fleming opened their eyes to new
possibilities. One mother says she never believed her son could grasp
golf. Fleming convinced her otherwise, and now her son loves the sport.

"He elevated my opinion of what I should expect or not expect of my
kid and what is acceptable and not acceptable," says one mother. "Why
shouldn't our kids be treated like other athletes—why shouldn't we
expect more out of our kids?"

Late last month, Special Olympics Texas approved the formation of a
new delegation made up of former members of the Flower Mound Mustangs,
meaning those children who were caught between two warring groups of
parents will now have a place to play.

Steve Fleming, however, says he will not be joining them. If he has
any regrets, it is that he became involved in the organization in the
first place.

He knows he offended many people, but he remains unapologetic. His
focus, he says, is on his son. Soon, the boy will be old enough to
strike out on his own. What will take place if something happens to
his father and mother, and he has no one to care for him? The thought
terrifies Fleming.

"I'm in a position in my life right now where it's simple, either
you're an asset or you're a liability. With my son, there's no
question, I want the best for him. And if you're not giving him that
and you're not getting out of the way for people that can do that, you
and I are going to have problems."

Right now, the boy is in a good place. He's at a high school where his
principal and his teachers are responsive to all his needs. Every
week, Fleming says, his son's teachers brief him on the boy's
progress. Fleming has put the same enthusiasm he directed toward the
Special Olympics into helping the school: Not long ago he convinced a
local business to donate $17,000 in computer equipment to the special
education department.

Sometimes, when he gets off work early, he heads over to Hebron High
to watch his son play football. He can't believe how well the boy is
progressing. And the best part is that his teammates consider him one
of their own.

He insists that he wants nothing more to do with the Special Olympics,
but sometimes when the anger over his suspension subsides, when he
remembers how things were in the beginning, you have to wonder.

"I remember the first team I ever coached and that girl came up to me
and never had a decent pair of shoes and she cried because I got her a
pair. I been with a girl last year, I'll never forget this. She never
got a hit. All the games, all the practices, she never got a hit. We
go to state games, two people on base, two outs, she got a double, and
I went crazy.

"All that work you do, you don't think they can do it, and every time
they step up."

The old Marine, the man known for yelling and trash talk, pauses to
compose himself. "I get worked up just thinking about it," he says.
"For these kids, it was the first time they had ever been treated like
real athletes. And the saddest part is, because of a lot of
bureaucracy and red tape and parents who didn't get what we were
trying to do, they're never going to get to feel that again. We
could've created something beautiful."


This is in response to your article dated 9/13/07, "OFF THE SHORT BUS"
Dallas Observer By Jesse Hyde. I am hopefully that from this article,
some eyes will be opened in order to see what is happening to all the
contributions that are donated to the Special Olympics and how much
actually go to these children. It sure is not getting to the children.
Occasionally, they go to a camp (3 or 4 to a room), facilities to
practice (tax money,) Travel expenses back and forth to a camp.
Anything else? And as far as Steve pulling in more Blacks than Whites
- there are more Whites than Blacks in this program. Steve is for all
children. Some accountability need to be investigated as to where all
this donated money is going. Information that is more positive should
have been given to Steve rather than all the negative information. It
was mentioned that 3 of his player got in trouble - but it was not
mentioned that he had gotten jobs for a lot of the children, took some
of them home, fed them, picked some of them up to go to these
practices and games. Put on activities to raise money (So that the
children could have the bread and not the crumbs.)Working hard to get
contributions to help his Delegation - no money from the Special
Olympics. And so much more work that he did helping the children. It
was not mentioned that Steve had received "Volunteer of the Year" for
the year 2006. In addition, I cannot believe you printed his son's IQ
and that, "he may be many things, but smart is not one of them." What
a statement! - What is up with that? We are not all smart in
everything. I just cannot believe this statement was printed. It is
interesting that Mr. Domer has given up his "district-paid stipend to
continue running the delegation." Why now? I am sure, when Eunice
Kennedy Shriver founded this program in 1962; it was for the children
and children only. How did this program get so far out of control? I
just wonder who is watching whom. God help us all!

Comment by E.Chavis — September 15, 2007 @ 07:10PM

Do you authenticate the people writing comments - because the two
(same) letters By E. Chavis comments - Off the Short Bus sounded like
that person was intimately involved with Mr. Flemings' life to have so
much personal information, yet they knew nothing about Special Olympics.
Special Olympics is an extremely worthwhile charity and after being
involved for the past 14 years, I encourage everyone to donate both
their time and money to this worthwhile charity!
Now to highlight a few (too many to touch all) false statements in
this article - Athletes never go to camp - the writer must be
confusing Special Olympics with a church function or Scouts, but there
is no Special Olympics' camp! Also, E. Chavis, spoke of a stipend paid
for being Head of Delegation - NOT TRUE - that was paid a School
District position and Mr. Domer is a TEACHER in that School District!
He has forfeited that position when the job requirements changed.
As for the comment on raising funds portion so the kids could have
bread and not crumbs. Our athletes are fed in very clean, wonderful
restaurants when we go to State Games - in fact, before Mr. Fleming
was removed from his Head of Delegation duties in Special Olympics, he
took some teams to State Games, and we happened to eat at the same
Mr. Domer along with some other members of L.I.S.D. founded the
Special Olympics program 24 years ago. Why not write a feature article
on how the lives of Athletes participating in Lewisville I.S.D.
Special Olympics have benefited by the opportunity to participate in
this wonderful program! Sincerely, Vicki Griffin, O.C.D.S.

Comment by Vicki Griffin — September 19, 2007 @ 01:24PM

Great article! I think Steve should be commended for his hard work and
dedication. I don't know the man personally, but what he did for those

Comment by Lynette Givens — September 19, 2007 @ 01:25PM

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