Local firefighter cites learning disability for failing test

NEW ULM – Martin Griebel has long dreamed of being a firefighter.

His parents Tom and Linda Griebel are determined to support their son, saying Martin always had a special sparkle in his eyes when talking about his plans of becoming a firefighter.

Griebel, now 21, began chasing this dream by volunteering around the firehouse at around age 10 and continuing to do so until recently.

On June 12, 2014 Griebel was let go from the New Ulm Fire Department because of low test scores on his firefighter certification test.

However, Griebel and his family are claiming that the reason he failed the test was not lack of knowledge, but the result of a learning disability.

The learning disability has been a life long struggle for Griebel. His specific learning disability effects reading comprehension. “If I read a book and someone asks me questions a ten minutes later, I will have already forgotten what I read,” Griebel said.

It is Griebel’s claim that his low test score was the result of his condition not being taken into account. While in elementary and high school, Griebel was able to pass written tests by having an assistant read the questions out loud.

Griebel stated the department had promised the test would be read to him so he could understand the questions, but this did not happen.

Griebel made additional requests to the state to receive disability assistance, but his request was denied. In order to qualify for a test assistant Griebel would first need to provide a note from a medical professional confirming his learning disability.

New Ulm Fire Chief Paul Macho was reached for a statement but was unable to comment on the decision to let Griebel go from the department. Macho did state that the New Ulm Fire Department does require a specific firefighter certification. New hires have a year to acquire this certification. Candidates seeking certification must take specialized firefighter classes and then pass a test through the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs’ Association.

Griebel does have the opportunity to re-take the test, but commented this will not solve the issue of his learning disability, as he will have it for the rest of his life.

At this time Griebel is uncertain if he will continue pursuing his dream of becoming a firefighter. Since being let go, Linda Griebel said, “it’s like a part of him is missing.”

The Griebels decided to go public with Martin’s story to raise awareness of this problem so no other kid loses his or her dream because of a learning disability.

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