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Parents of disabled kids struggle to find inclusive classrooms

Parents of disabled kids struggle to find inclusive classrooms (Photo: KUTV)
Parents of disabled kids struggle to find inclusive classrooms (Photo: KUTV)
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Henry Sandy is 10, and has Down syndrome. While that diagnosis is classified as an “intellectual disability,” triggering special services in his Salt Lake City school district, he loves his neighborhood school, where he is treated just like everyone else.

As of now, he can walk to Bonneville Elementary with his brother and sister every day.

But treating disabled kids just like everyone else, while providing them the services to which they are entitled, is a struggle for some public school districts.

Amanda Sandy, Henry’s mom, has been battling with the Salt Lake School City District, which wants Henry placed at a specialized school just for disabled children, a 20-mile bus ride away from his friends and community.

That move could stunt all the progress Henry has made, his mother thinks. “I think that it wouldn't be beneficial, but that it will be detrimental," Amanda Sandy said.

Because of her refusal to move Henry, he has been denied the special education services to which he is entitled for two years while other kids at Bonneville Elementary, with differently categorized disabilities, get to see a speech therapist, for example.

They want to segregate him because his disability makes him look different,” Sandy said. “That’s what it comes down to.

Steve Phelps is a West High teacher and the head of the Utah Special Education Advisory Panel, or USEAP, which advises the state school board on matters involving special education needs.

There’s an underlying message that gets sent by segregating kids,” Phelps said. “When we talk about inclusion in schools one thing we have to realize is it’s not just about education, it’s about preparing the community and the people in the community to accept those individuals inside of that community.

The Sandys’ inclusivity argument continues with the district and may find its way into a courtroom.

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Amanda said she realizes that many parents of children with disabilities don’t have the time or energy to take on bureaucratic powers on behalf of their kids, but if she prevails, it could change the way districts accommodate those kids for the better.

More often than not, parents are pushed into accepting something or a placement that they disagree with, but don't feel like they have options," she said.
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