WEST JORDAN, Utah (ABC4) – A petition contesting the Jordan School District’s decision to pull the life skills and peer mentoring programs from Herriman and Bingham High Schools has amassed over 30,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
The life skills program provides specialized instruction for students with disabilities, according to the school district’s special education course catalog. The peer mentoring program allows students to assist “other students in mastering course content.”
The petition states that “our children deserve to attend their neighborhood schools with their siblings and friends.”
“The District’s decision is likely grounded in an effort to improve efficiency by consolidation. Nevertheless, all students deserve and need the opportunity to associate with, and learn from, children with special needs,” it reads.
Sydney Plant says she was a peer tutor at Bingham High School six years ago and thinks about memories from her time tutoring special needs students often. Peer tutoring special needs students is an opportunity that will no longer be available when the programs are relocated.
“Being a peer tutor changed my life. It is the reason I was able to learn compassion, the reason I chose my career, the reason I got up for school some days,” she tells ABC4. “Peer tutoring affects more students than I think the school staff realizes. Inclusion matters. Having these amazing kids with different abilities at all high schools teaches students acceptance and compassion. No one should be left out because of their different abilities. I cannot imagine where I would be if my high school did not have tutoring when I was there. This program changes lives. These kids change lives.”
But according to Sandra Riesgraf, Communications Director for the Jordan School District, the Life Skills programs are being relocated, not pulled or cut.
Riesgraf says the district loves these kids and their parents, and she understands that parents feel the need to advocate for their children.
She tells ABC4 that there are seven students in the Life Skills program at Herriman High School and five at Bingham High School. The high schools that the students are being relocated to have a higher population of students in this program.
“They are being relocated to other schools with higher populations to broaden their range of experience and sustain the programs. We are not taking opportunities away from them. We are allocating resources to help the highest number of students,” she explains.
Riesgraf says that students in the Life Skills program at Bingham High School will be relocated to West Jordan High School and Riverton High School. Students from Herriman High School will be relocated to Mountain Ridge High School, which is also located in Herriman.
The district will provide busing for these students, and their teachers are being relocated with them, Riesgraf states.