The leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.

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Inclusion for Gabby
Love from Gabby
Love from Gabby
Inclusion for Gabby

My job transferred us to California in August 2011 from Fort Worth, Texas. My daughter Gabby was four years old at the time. Prior to arriving in Oakdale we contacted the public school and sent them a 30+ page bio about Gabby, her education, medical history and everything we had done to prepare her for inclusion. In Texas, Gabby attended Kinderfrogs (a laboratory school at Texas Christian University for babies with Down syndrome), a public school and a private preschool with typically developing children. She also took tap/ballet with typically developing children. Upon arriving in Oakdale, we were told the school needed to do a 30-day evaluation in a special day class (SDC). Seven days later we had our first individualized education program (IEP) meeting. My wife and I left that first meeting baffled and confused – the IEP team felt Gabby should be in an SDC for severely handicapped children K-3rd grade. This was not the path we had carefully planned for Gabby and did not want her in that class. We also thought we had another year of preschool and they told us Gabby was too “advanced” for their preschool program. We requested another IEP meeting because we did not agree with their offer of free appropriate public education (FAPE). We requested Gabby be placed in kindergarten with the proper supports and repeat kindergarten the next year because she was so young. The district told us Gabby would not be able to keep up with her peers. They also told us she could not repeat kindergarten. We requested access to the general education kindergarten class to observe and another IEP meeting. In the third IEP meeting the district was a lot more forceful and was very demeaning of Gabby’s abilities. We put the school on 10 day notice and pulled Gabby. We placed Gabby in kindergarten at Big Valley Christian School (BVCS) where she was welcomed with open arms by all her typically developing peers and the staff. Gabby is repeating kindergarten this year and doing amazingly. We are so thankful for BVCS. My wife and I were in shock that our district would not even try to place Gabby in a general education class. We knew we would never put Gabby back in their school but felt the district was doing a great injustice to all kids who did not fit into the “typical mold.” We retained an attorney and sued the district. It was a grueling process, four full days of testimony. In June 2012 we received the ruling from the judge. He ruled in our favor that the school violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by not offering Gabby a placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE). My wife and I pray this win will help the next little one with Down syndrome who comes to Oakdale. Gabby is a bright, vibrant little girl that brings joy to all she meets. Life is so much better with Gabby in it every day! We want to encourage other families to keep fighting and advocating for your child!

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Lorena Garcia, United States, CA
7/15/2013 12:21:03 PM
Hello. I was inspired by your story and I was wondering if you could please share the contact information of your lawyer. I am going through the exact same situation with my son at Bonita unified school district. I was wondering if you could please help us. thank you, Lorena Garcia

Ifeude Ukadike Hill, United States, GA
6/7/2013 5:06:37 PM
So inspiring! Thank you for sharing your story.

Dawn, United States, MA
2/17/2013 9:02:25 PM
Hooray for Gabby and hooray for you! You are wonderful parents and have been blessed with a beautiful girl!!

Judy Cook, United States, CA
2/11/2013 2:31:50 PM
This is a beautiful story of how parents can make all the difference for a child when they advocate for them!

Randi Phillips, United States, TN
2/7/2013 5:32:44 PM
Wonderful story, I hope it inspires someone else to stand up and fight too. Love youguys

Tracy Churchman, United States, TX
2/5/2013 10:58:52 AM
Love & hate reading stories like this...this happened to us, too only when we moved from CA to TX *weird switcheroo*. It all depends on the school you land at I guess. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for pushing the envelope. Thank you for sharing Gabby with the rest of the world. You're amazing parents to an amazing kiddo. ~Tracy & Ty

Chelo Mayfield, United States, CA
2/5/2013 10:24:46 AM
Truly inspiring ♡♡

Chris Newlon, United States, IL
2/4/2013 9:31:17 PM
way to go! Such an inspiration for others! Thank you!

Fred Caplan, United States, SC
2/4/2013 4:27:42 PM
Very well written and informative. People must be held accountable for their actions and Oakdale Schools should have received a fine for their poor decision.

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