Mom says daughter with special needs excluded from yearbook; school district explains change

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.

“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 Bailery 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.'"

25 comments

  • Linda62

    Unfortunately, the students were not informed of the change when the past two years they DID appear in the yearbook. This year the students purchased the yearbook with the expectation that they would appear in the yearbook. Why did they not prepare these students for the change? Why not provide them a yearbook that documented their year? They may be an independent program but they are in the same complex. You changed something from the previous years and did not inform them.

    What is newsworthy is they neglected to tell the students in advance! Just like the yearbook that was published with the girl’s photos altered to cover bare shoulders without informing the students was a news story.

    • Supergirl45

      I agree…the school could have handled the news to the parent better. Give her a refund for the yearbook and everyone is happy.

      • bob

        Only one parent is clueless. Believe me, the rest of us are quite aware that our ADULT offspring do not attend Blue Peak High School.

  • Supergirl45

    Sounds like the school is trying to move the student past high school and the mom can’t let go. Her daughter is soooo cute though.

  • jenny p

    Tooele county residents would like to have a year book made. If you know a parent of one of these kids, please send them to the Facebook group Tooele County 411 so we can get permission and pics (we also have a photographer if a pic is needed)

  • bob

    My son is in that program ,and I don’t have a problem with this. He is not in high school. The facility at Blue Peak serves multiple purposes. The alternative high schools is just one of them. My son is in the same building, but does not attend the high school.

    Adults attend night school there. There is a cosmetology school. A medical assistant program. Should they ALL be in the kids’ yearbook?

    My son has yearbooks from when he was actually in high school. He’s an adult now. It would be insulting, frankly, to say he’s a “child.” He’s a grown man, and doesn’t need to be in a high school yearbook.

  • Ellen M. Chambers, MBA

    The relevant question is: What agency runs, or is responsible for, the transitional program at the Community Learning Center. It sounds as if this program is run by the local school district to meet the transitional planning needs of its older students. If these students are all on IEPs, they are being served by the local school district and are entitled to all the protections afforded under state and federal special education and civil rights laws. Those laws would compel the district to include those students in the yearbook unless the district could show that doing so would create a financial hardship to the district or would fundamentally alter the nature of the district’s programming.

    If the transitional program is run by some agency other than the school district then the district has no obligation to do anything.

    So the relevant question is: Who runs the transitional program? If the district, I think you have a civil rights violation. If a different agency, no cause of action against the district.

    Ellen M. Chambers, MBA
    Special Education Activist
    emchambers@charter.net

    • bob

      Must we “compel” everything? Must everything be a “civil rights violation”?

      The kids don’t think they’re in high school. They call it “college.” They can have their own yearbook if they want. I’m sure Josten’s would jump at the chance to extract a hundred bucks a head from them.

      The school district runs it. So what. IT’S NOT HIGH SCHOOL. My son GRADUATED LAST YEAR. He has a cap with a tassel on it. His picture is in the SENIOR section. Where would he be now? The short bus section?

      Let it go. Seriously. Fight a fight that’s worth fighting.

    • ANOTHERBOB

      There is no “relevant question” ELLEN M. CHAMBERS. The students in question didn’t participate in classes with those Blue Peak High School kids.

      By the way Ellen, when it comes to common sense educators in our public schools suffer from a dearth of that commodity.

    • Oh Hell NO!

      Special education and CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS?!?!? Ellen, stop. Just STOP. A 21 year old mentally incompetent person who is funded by taxpayers to spend an extra 4 years being prepped for a job they will never hold does NOT deserve to have their photo in a HIGH SCHOOL memory book. They are just taking up space in the high school. They are NOT high school students.

      • John M Stoecker

        so very christian of you to love your fellow man so,i suppose in your cave you dont see these kids in the work force,which if you dont leave your moms basement for 33yrs its understandable.

      • ANOTHERBOB

        JOHN M STOECKER – You’re kidding right???? We kick God out of our schools, forbid the children from praying to Him, and then some fool suggests we bring “Christianity” into this discussion. C.mon John. You can’t possibly be that dim witted.

      • bob

        Ignorant fool. Many of them WILL hold jobs and pay taxes. And what would you do with those who can’t?

        I have a pretty good idea what you would do. It involves Zyklon B.

  • Kaelee

    This disgusts me, when Amber attended Tooele High School everyone loved her and went out of their way to make sure she and all the other special needs students were included in whatever they wanted to do. I know how it feels to be excluded fron the year book. My senior photo was not in the year book, I wasnt included in the swim team photo when I had swam on the team all four years of high school. To someone else, to someone on the outside looking in it not a big deal. But to me, and I guarantee to everyone of those students it hurts all anyone wants is to be included and the school or school district or whomever it was they didnt care. Amber and all of those wonderful students deserve so much better than this and whomever is to blame should be ashamed of themselves.

    • bob

      That’s correct. ATTENDED. Past tense. She finished high school 3 years ago.

      She is not enrolled in, nor does she attend, Blue Peak High School. She never did. She has nothing to do with it, other than her school occupies the same physical building as Blue Peak. So does the ADULT culinary arts program, the cosmetology school, and the medical sciences school. Among other ADULT programs.

      Should they all be in the high school yearbook? Should 50 year olds be allowed to attend the prom? Get a clue.

  • Melanie

    For these ADULT students with special needs, they are provided a dvd portfolio, showing skills they have been taught and tasks that they have performed to help them for future endeavors in possibly obtaining employment. In my opinion, this has much more value than a yearbook photo.

  • Brent Sorensen

    I find it sad that people are using language like “useless,” “a job they will never have,” “taking up space.” Is this what the years of work that people working with special needs have accomplished? This sounds exactly like the language people would use 50 years ago. The main problem, I feel, is the change. People with special needs (and people without, honestly) often have problems when things change. I don’t know much about the program, but it seems to be the kind of thing that helps people with special needs transition into adulthood. I know that I, as a 27 year-old still enjoy many of the same things I did as an 18-year-old. Is a yearbook really something that we need to give up so quickly? The people are still going to the school, presumably the same campus that they spent their teenage years. Perhaps you phase out the yearbook after a few years. Why must it be between “GIVE HER THE PICTURE IN THE YEARBOOK!” and “SHE DOESN’T GO TO THE SCHOOL SO SHE DOESN’T DESERVE THE PICTURE!” Why isn’t there a middle ground where we can work through it? And finally, please stop treating those with special needs as if they are useless, even if it’s in anonymous internet comments. People with special needs are not useless and they are still people, people with feelings, hopes, dreams, wants, needs, and desires.

  • John M Stoecker

    .how very christian of them to outcast their fellow humans,smells like someone fouched up and the principal has to come up with some sorta lie to cover poor budgeting.

    • ANOTHERBOB

      JOHN M STOECKER – You’re really slow on the uptake!!!! Like I mentioned before, we kicked God out of our schools, forbid the children from praying to Him, heaven help the sorry soul who brings a Bible to school, and then some fool suggests we bring “Christianity” into this discussion. C.mon John. You can’t possibly be that dim witted.

  • Hales

    I feel like if this was going to be the case this year then last year administration should have made some sort of nod to these kids in the yearbook, almost like it was their “senior year.” And we’re getting several excuses here but “not enough pages?” Puuuuh–lease. Yearbooks have pages and pages of junk in them- they couldn’t cut one page of “the popular kids making duckfaces in the hallways between classes?” to allow these kids a page of their school portraits?

    • bob

      Unnecessary. The other 16 families are fully aware their kids aren’t in high school. I’m one of them.

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