Judge Says Student With Down Syndrome Didn't Get Appropriate Education

Judge Says Student With Down Syndrome Didn't Get Appropriate Education

7:11pm Aug 28, 2019
Quinn Cronin. Image courtesy: Cronin Family

A North Carolina judge has ruled in favor of a couple who argued that Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools didn’t do enough to help their special needs daughter. 

Quinn Cronin, who has Down Syndrome, entered Whitaker Elementary School last year as a six-year-old kindergartener. Soon after though, she was in private school.

Her parents say the public school system didn’t support their child's presence in a traditional classroom. 

Now an administrative law judge has agreed with the family, saying the school interfered in their plans for Quinn to learn beside peers without special needs.

Her father, McNeil Cronin, says testimony showed school administrators had pre-determined that Quinn should be moved.

“After less than 10 days of Quinn attending kindergarten, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools chose to remove Quinn from Whitaker Elementary and transfer her to another school, where she would be assigned to learn in a segregated classroom only for children with special disabilities,” he says.

Their attorney, Stacey Gahagan, says an expert testified that since the Individuals with Disabilities Act was passed decades ago there have been empirical studies showing support for keeping students with disabilities in regular education classes. 

“All of the studies show that those students will make more progress if they learn alongside their non-disabled peers,” she says.

School system officials released a statement saying the district has more than 1,400 professionals in the Exceptional Children division who work to help students with special needs.  

“Our Exceptional Children’s staff is highly trained and works tirelessly to provide, create and maintain the best educational setting within the parameters of state and federal law. While we cannot offer every specialized program at every school, the district does offer the complete continuum of educational services to ensure every child has access to an education that is individualized for their needs.”

But they declined to comment on Quinn’s case specifically because the school board may decide to appeal the decision.

The decision by Administrative Law Judge Stacey Bice Bawtinhimer applies only to Quinn’s case.

The Cronins say they will wait to see if there’s an appeal before they decide whether to keep her in private school. 

“Our goals are simple — we want our daughter to be included in her regular education classroom,” Cronin says. “That is currently taking place, she is currently doing well.”

That would have to continue if she went back to public school, he says.  

 

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