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Lawsuit claims Utah State University discriminated against student with Down syndrome

A lawsuit claims Utah State University discriminated against and then expelled a student with Down syndrome. (Photo: Mike DeBernardo, Deseret News)

LOGAN, Utah — A lawsuit claims Utah State University discriminated against and then expelled a student with Down syndrome. The lawsuit has already been filed in federal court.

Diving into the lawsuit 

The federal lawsuit accuses the university of discriminating against Emily Arthur, who was accepted into the Aggie Elevated program back in 2018. The program offers students a mix of career exploration and independent living leading to a certificate. It also is funded by a federal grant.

The lawsuit states “at no point leading up to the start of the Aggie Elevated program did any person associated with the program or defendant USU inform Emily or her parents that Emily was ‘not ready’ or otherwise unqualified to participate in the program.”

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges Arthur’s mother was later notified by program officials that her daughter was not ready for college and her behavior was repeatedly unacceptable. The Arthur family said this happened after Emily was already accepted into the program and started her first term. They said shortly afterward, officials removed her from the program.

According to the lawsuit, her mother received a call from officials who told her “Emily was purportedly a danger to herself.” She also was reportedly told that Emily was in danger of being ‘dragged under a stairwell’ by a predator.

The lawsuit claims Arthur was “degraded, dehumanized and humiliated” as a result of the university’s “intentional discrimination.” The family is seeking unspecified damages and injunctive relief in Utah’s U.S. District Court. 

University response

Utah State University said they typically don’t comment on current litigation. Spokesperson Amanda DeRito added the lawsuit is troubling in its misrepresentation of facts and how it portrays the Aggie Elevated program.

DeRito mentioned the program is, “one of the few such programs in the intermountain region to offer an inclusive residential living component. It requires that its students have a level of independence appropriate to living on campus and interacting with peers.”

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