Allegan parents try to end vandalism at special-needs school

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ALLEGAN, Mich. -- A playground designed to host students with disabilities has become a target for vandalism.

Hillside Learning Center is a school that teaches students who are either physically or cognitively impaired. Parents tell FOX 17 the playground equipment continues to get destroyed by older teenage kids.

“The [special needs] swing has been messed up that they sit in," said Nathan Engle, father of 4-year-old student Gavin. "It goes over their shoulders and locks in. The teachers have to sit with them now and hold them, and it really makes it hard for that.”

Engle said the swing has been broken for about a year and it was one of the only pieces of equipment his son, with cerebral palsy, could play on.

Almost all of the benches at the playground have been destroyed, the basketball hoops have been ruined, and there are holes burned into some of the playground equipment.

“It’s for the developmental children that need it and enjoy coming out here and playing with it," said Engle.

Anja Porter, the president of the school's parent teacher organization, said the group has created a GoFundMe account to raise money for new equipment and plan on holding events to get the community involved.

“We know it’s going to take a lot to fix it and replace things but we want to make sure it’s protected and safe before we do that," said Porter. “We’re going to figure out what legal actions we can take, if we can get the signs up, if we can get some camera’s up."

Porter said school officials have spoken with Allegan police, and they're hoping for some extra patrols around the playground, as well.

“I hope they respect the equipment and understand and realize these kids are limited and have little access to certain playground equipment," said Porter. "They are more than welcome to play, but just be respectful of what we have.”

If you'd like to help fix and protect Hillside Learning Center's playground, click here.

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