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Mom says daughter with special needs excluded from yearbook

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TOOELE COUNTY, Utah -- There’s a yearbook to mark every year 21-year-old Amber Bailey has completed in the classroom in Tooele County. But this year, the special needs student is missing from her copy of the book.

“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.

She was shocked to see her daughter’s picture missing from the Blue Peak High School yearbook this spring. Bailey, who has Down syndrome, attends classes at the county’s Community Learning Center, which is housed in the same building as the high school.

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 the Tooele County School District, that wasn't the reason for the change.

“They don’t participate in classes with those Blue Peak High School kids,” said Mat Jackson, director of special education for Tooele County.

In past years, Blue Peak students have helped with tutoring the students in the transitional program. But this year, Jackson said the students did not work together. Furthermore, they felt because the transitional program is intended to help special needs students move on from high school, the students should not be involved in high school activities--such as yearbook.

“The expectation is different," Jackson said. "The environment is different. So, that prompted, that was part of the change as well.”

But for Bailey, the move highlighted other differences between her daughter and the student body.

“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.'"


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  • Sam

    Okay, look, these student have already been in the yearbook K-12. They happen to attend a transitional program that is held in the same building as the high school, but they are not high school students. It is actually strange that they would be included in the high school yearbook. How many 21 year-olds are getting their pictures taken for a high school yearbook simply because they attend a program held in the same building? Not many. This is not some horrible discrimination against students with special needs. Stop the drama. Lots of kids don’t have the chance to attend a high quality program for special needs students. Don’t nitpick like this.

    • Lacey

      I know someone who graduated when they were 20, and they were not in a transitional program. They were in the yearbook.
      This IS a discrimination against these students. They attend the school, they graduate from it, so they should be in the yearbook. There is absolutely no reason to exclude these students, and the exclusion is an attack on the normalization that these students need. Special needs students are still students. Finding reasons to pull them is actually the nit picking in this situation.

      • Fen

        Did you not read the article? They do NOT attend classes from the high school, they attend a transitional learning program, considered a college level course, at the community learning center. Is it in the same building? According to this article, yes. Do they have the same teachers? Going to guess no. Let’s not forget the parts this article leaves out, like ”
        The special needs students “don’t participate” with the high school anymore and should not be involved in high school activities, like appearing in the yearbook, Superintendent Scott Rogers told the Daily News.”
        They (being the people running the transititional program) spotted working with the high school because being around that maturity level (ie none) was holding back the special needs people (not going to call them kids, that’s insulting to them).

      • Serena

        Hey Fen- like in the article you are questioning Lacy about reading she like myself read and very quickly came across the immediate cause as to why it’s viewed as such shameful action& lack thereof by a school in 2015. In my opinion anything after mom shocked to see her daughters picture not in yr book unlike every yearbook prior, not enough page space for their picture and the kids are in that school aren’t students once those 3 things were established not much more after matters. When my son was in pre-k and kindergarten by no means did those kids even come close to interacting w ANY other student in a higher grade they weren’t even visible- EVER to any1 outside their proper appointed teacher &fellow classmates. So Was my son not considered a student of that school what about schools that still do 1/2day pre-k &kindergarten….Not students? Then we have ages of said grades you point out. I started kindergarten at 4 yrs & 4 months old some kids 6 yrs old now law is age 5 by Sept. 1 is there still graduation from 12th grade by 17,18,19, even 20yr Olds today? My son’s 16 w friends 19&20 I will continue referring to them all as kids. I’d expect most to take into consideration the special needs kids aren’t going to typically mature into their age society says is so nor be complete w/ their 12th grade education at the age considered by public opinion as the correct age of 18. I’m willing to bet few manage to move off to start college life with or without those athletic or elite GPA scholarships. Although I’d imagine just as a human mother that being in the yr book every yr prior of a school they aren’t students of but are students at and in the building of a school where they have real the students(able to keep up w that sarcastic word action I hope)was an amazing feeling most take for granted w our/our kids pic in yr books it’s got to undoubtedly a feeling we could never imagine having felt as a parent of & the child of special needs who’s been typically left out in most of societies ignorant eyes as not the same so not good enough. You say tomato I say make salsa.

  • Erik

    How do we get a hold of this school????? I will donate money to have this angle in the yearbook!!!!!
    Everyone involved with this bs should be ashamed of themselves!!!!

  • Jay Cohn

    This instance is clear and UNrefutable proof that….Mat Jackson, director of special education for Tooele County schools has DE-volved into 1950’s era human values on balanced societal constructs. A “Why bother with her being mentioned this year” attitude that could not be any more INhumane and callous. At the least, feature her & her/others teaching support students in YrBk as part of that program in that HS. Hate to think what he would do with a sick dog….The Tooele school district administrators need to send him down to meet with and spend counseling time with both this couple, their fellow students and teachers. Maybe……he might learn something about human emotion and the equality of societal acceptance afforded to all here on planet earth.

    05/16/15 – Co Springs, CO: Johnny Daniel, who has cerebral palsy, and Paige Steffonich, who has Down syndrome, THE MOST popular Prom Court couple at the Senior Assembly 1 week before Prom, caused “the building to literally shake…I’ve never heard our student body cheer for anything so long and so loudly,” said Sierra HS teacher Jesse Smith. http://bit.ly/1K1eCV8

  • Serena

    Hey Utah school I wonder if asked on your position pertaining to Anti-bully policy your answer certainly would have the same audacity as the claim of “not enough page space” and say you have a 0 tolerance for bullies too. I guess unlike past yrs when included (wow prob made the kids/parents feel good being included) guess they didn’t get the memo ATTENTION SPECIAL NEEDS CLASS/PARENTS WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH ROOM FOR THE FEW OF YOU SO YOU CAN FIND YOUR OWN “SEPARATE” YR BOOKS . But your parents taxes and money school earns having you here at school is appreciated. Then reading some comments trying to justify it- are sad worse then initial doings of school. Idh to have a special needs child to imagine the feeling all left out must feel like because 1 I’m a human and I know my 4 sport athlete 10th gr son would voluntarily give up any hi light spot he may be on throughout yr book for the right thing. Then again raised right goes along way.

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