Utah High School Excludes Special Needs Students From Appearing in Yearbook
This year, Leslee Bailey was stunned when she saw that her daughter Amber wasn't included in the Blue Peak High School yearbook as she had been in past years. Amber has Down syndrome and takes classes in the Utah high school building.
For the last two years, the school has always included the 17 special needs students from the center in the yearbook. However, this year, a change was made.
“They’ve been to school with these kids,” Leslee Bailey said. “They’ve walked the halls with them. How would you feel if it was your child? You know, your child was left out because, as the principal told me, ‘We don’t have the pages.’”
According to Tooele County School District, the reason for the change is that Blue Peak High School students used to help tutor the special needs students in the building but they no longer do. And because it's a transitional program via the county’s Community Learning Center designed for special needs students to progress from high school, they shouldn't be involved in activities like yearbook.
“They don’t participate in classes with those Blue Peak High School kids,” said Mat Jackson, director of special education for Tooele County.
“The expectation is different,” Jackson said. “The environment is different. So, that prompted, that was part of the change as well.”
But Leslee Bailey says the move just serves to single out her daughter and other special needs students from the rest of the student body.
“It’s kind of like they singled out the students who were in the transition program and said, ‘We don’t want you in our yearbook,’” said Amber’s mother, Leslee Bailey.
“It doesn’t just matter because I love her and I want the best for her,” she said. “But it bothers me because it seems they’ve gone back in time to where we’re not including them. And we are going to tuck them away and say, ‘No, they don’t exist.'”