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Parents Start Petition After Schools Pull Special Needs Student Programs

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — A group of parents in the Jordan School District were outraged after hearing the Life Skills program would be moved out of two high schools. They started a petition and within hours had thousands of supporters.

Students with intellectual disabilities can currently attend all major high schools in Jordan District, but starting next year, students in the program at Herriman will be absorbed into the program at Mountain Ridge, and Bingham students will have the choice of Riverton or West Jordan.

Oakley Peterson runs the Instagram account “Nothing Down About It.” She came up with an idea in March to try to get the program into all district elementary schools.

“Originally, four other parents and I went to the board district meeting thinking, let’s get this in more elementary schools,” said Peterson.

She had no idea what she was about to discover.

“Did you know they’re slashing these programs in the two high schools we’re in boundary for?” said Peterson. “That’s never been done.”

Jordan District spokesperson Sandra Riesgraf said the District isn’t eliminating the program, they’re just moving those students to other high schools with more students in the program.

Superintendent Anthony Godfrey wouldn’t go on camera, but released the following statement through the district communications department.

“Jordan School District is committed to supporting special needs students of all abilities. We place students in schools to maximize their instructional and social experience. We are always looking to expand programs and opportunities for students with special needs throughout the district.”

Seth King met Dustin Forsyth more than 20 years ago in the peer mentor program at Orem High School.

King said the program was life changing.

“I cherish that program and that time I had getting to know Dustin,” said King. “Obviously, here we are 20-plus years later and the peer tutor program is a big reason we’re still friends.”

King believes taking the program out of any school is a mistake, and so does Peterson.

“Videos that go viral of the kid scoring the touchdown, the prom queen, you see the way you tear up when you watch those videos, they way that those affect other people, it doesn’t just affect our kids.”

Somer Christensen was devastated when she got a letter telling her that her 16-year old daughter, Maisy, who has Down Syndrome, would not be able to attend her home high school next year.

Christensen said she looked forward to her daughter going to school with siblings and neighbor kids.

“It would mean everything because it means the kids she grew up with, the kids that have known her since she was a little girl, would see her in the hallways, they would want to include her and take to her football games, basketball games and dances,” said Christensen.

Maisy will now attend Mountain Ridge High School.

“They’re taking steps backward, not forward,” said Peterson.

Something of which she’s not ok with.

“Sadly, it takes a lot of fight, but I think sometimes we don’t fight hard enough for these basic rights for our kids,” said Peterson. “That’s coming to an end.”

The families have launched a petition in hopes that the district will reverse their position.

They have also planned a rally for May 7 at 5:30 p.m. at Oquirrh Shadows Park, located at 10300 South 4000 West in South Jordan.

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