Parents petition Jordan School District to keep special needs student programs

Apr 13, 2021, 3:27 PM

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — Parents started a petition, hoping the Jordan School District will reconsider a decision to pull a series of special needs student programs from two major highs schools. 

Currently, students with special needs and disabilities are able to attend any major high school in the Jordan district. But, at the start of next school year, students in the Life Skills program at Herriman High School will be integrated into the program at Mountain Ridge High School. Students in the program at Bingham High will pick between Riverton High School or West Jordan High School.

Once some parents learned about the change, a petition began circling, gathering thousands of signatures in just a few hours.

Attempt to expend special needs student programs derailed in Jordan district

In an effort to expand the special needs programs to elementary schools in the district, Oakley Peterson and four other parents attended a board meeting to pitch the idea. There, they learned the district had different plans in mind. 

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

Peterson viewed the decision as a step backward and vowed to challenge the district’s stance. 

“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.”

A change with impact

And parents of students with special needs are already feeling the impact of the change. 

Somer Christensen looked forward to her 16-year-old daughter Maisy, who has Down Syndrome, attending school with her siblings and neighbors, only to discover it wasn’t an option. 

The Jordan School District sent Christensen a letter, informing her Maisy would no longer be able to attend her home high school next year due to the cutting of the special needs programs. Maisy will now have to attend Mountian Ridge High School in the fall. 

“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.

Jordan School District responds 

Spokesperson for the Jordan district Sandra Riesgraf said the district will not eliminate the programs. Instead, she said they will transition them to schools where there is more participation. 

Superintendent Anthony Godfrey turned down an on-camera interview request from KSL TV. Instead, Godfrey released the following statement: 

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.

The parents spearheading the petition plan to host a rally on May 7 at 5:30 p.m. at Oquirrh Shadows Park, located at 10300 South 4000 West in South Jordan.

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Parents petition Jordan School District to keep special needs student programs