Shawna Diedrich watched a car fly through a crosswalk near Mitchell Middle School and almost hit her son. 

“It was terrifying,” said Shawna, who’d been waiting at a red light three cars behind the crosswalk. “I pulled over, picked up Trey, and I called the police.”

She could only imagine what would have happened if 12-year-old Trey Diedrich’s cochlear implants didn’t allow him to hear the car coming.

That was September 2018, but it wasn’t the first time Shawna had been concerned for her son’s safety at school.

Earlier in the year, the batteries for Trey’s implants died. No one bothered to call Shawna, and Trey walked across that same crosswalk to a friend’s house without the ability to hear oncoming traffic.

Shawna approached school officials, but her concerns went unheeded.  Then, she started talking to the Argus Leader.

It was one of the first conversations in which we realized the extent of how often South Dakota officials at every level have ignored deaf and hard of hearing children. That’s leaving hundreds of kids in our state at the risk of slipping through the cracks and not getting the education promised to them under federal law. 

Meeting Shawna and Trey in their Mitchell home in November 2018 spurred a yearlong Argus Leader investigation into the shortcomings in South Dakota’s education systems.

Shawna and Trey’s frustrations were echoed by dozens of other parents, students, advocates and educators.