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Lawsuit May Decide If Girl Should Repeat Kindergarten For Fourth Time


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A Colorado 8-year-old with disabilities is at the center of a dispute between her parents and school officials over whether or not she should repeat kindergarten for the fourth time.

The girl, Emma Holmes, has cerebral palsy and is not able to see, walk or talk. Her parents insist that kindergarten is the best place for her because she’s happy there interacting with the other young children.

But her Fort Collins, Colo. school district says it’s time to move on and they want the youngster to enter first grade.

Now the two sides are bracing for a legal battle. Emma’s parents, Stephen and Heather Holmes, say they are prepared to file suit to keep their daughter in kindergarten, a move they took last year when the district took a similar position.

Since the Holmeses don’t expect any dramatic changes in Emma’s abilities, it’s unclear how many years they will want their daughter to remain in the same grade, reports KDVR, the Denver Fox affiliate.


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Comments (8 Responses)

  1. says:

    I have no doubt at all that the parents care, and want what is best for their daughter. My experience tells me, however, that her abilities to learn may be far beyond what anyone suspects at this time. Don’t underestimate her potential, and please continue to expose her to appropriate academics according to her chronological age. Let her move on. I continue to work with adults who are unable to speak – they want everyone to know how smart they are!

  2. JR says:

    All I know about this case is what I read in a few paragraphs and listened to in a newscast of less than 4 minutes. I think it is a mistake to be making judgments about what is good for this child based on such a superficial understanding of the situation. Least Restrictive Environment can only be defined in terms of the individual needs of the child as determined by the parents and the school. I know that for my son exposure to academics is meaningless for him, while a chance to be with people who make him happy and accept him for who he is if far more important. A process that allows the parents and the school to work out what is most beneficial for the child is at the heart of providing an appropriate education.

  3. Nikki12 says:

    I hope this child is either moved into first grade or into a more appropriate setting for her abilities. The school has a requirement to provide FAPE not make the child or her parents “happy.” With a good IEP, this child can recieve all the supports/accommodations she needs in first grade and all subsequent grades. if the school/aprents can make a valid argument for higher grades being inappropriate, the IEP team needs to reevaluate the regular ed setting. As an educator and a parent, I’m confused as to why the parents think it’s better for their child to remain with much younger children.

  4. Nikki12 says:

    @JR- What is the connection between LRE and a child of 8 being educated with 5 &6 year olds? That was a confusing remark. The story states that the school wants the girl moved to 1st grade. Both the kindergarten and the 1st grade are regular ed with supports/services. This girl is just getting too old for kindergarten.

    My question is this: Do the parents also not want a LSS classroom for their daughter? If they believe their child is so incapable of making academic progress that they want her to stay with much younger children, why not look at a special program?

  5. NVAdvocate says:

    It is not only about what is good for this little girl. I am a mom, and I know from personal expereince that there is a belief at the heart of this matter that Emma’s relationship with other children is not the important issue. In fact, it is really the only issue… she needs to be allowed to move along with her peers so that they can continue to know her, and share with her, and learn from her, and laugh with her, and protect her, and care about her. And visa versa. Ignoring the bonds that grow between our children and other non-disabled children because we carry our own ignorance about the value of relationships with people with disabilties hurts everyone.I did it to my own daughter at times too! Emma is a gift, and she brings gifts, but only when she is allowed to participate in the community in which God has mysteriously called her to participate. It is not just about academics. We cannot know what the future holds, which is scary, but there are children at the heart of this matter, many children, not just Emma. Assuming she has no relationship with children she attends school with denies her and them a bit of humanity we are all entitiled to.

  6. JR says:

    The confusion about Least Restrictive Environment comes from widespread misinterpretation of the term. LRE is part of the placement decision for each child. It is not defined as the regular education classroom, or as a special ed. class based on the child’s label, or any other particular setting. For a placement to meet LRE requirements according to federal regs, it must be based on the IEP, be as close as possible to the child’s home, and unless the child’s IEP requires some other arrangement, the child is educated in the school that he or she would attend if non-disabled. In addition the team making the decision, including the child’s parents, must give consideration to any potential harmful effect on the quality of services the child needs. These rules have been in place since the 1970’s.

    My point is that it is easy to have opinions critical of the parents, especially when you have never met them or their child, and to have all kinds of theories about what other people should want for their children. In my opinion, the important thing is that the law supports the right of parents to speak on behalf of their own children and acknowledges that parents have valuable insights about their own children that are necessary to make the system work for them.

  7. mdg_60617 says:

    So if the point of school is to educate and these parents don’t believe that their differentlyabled child has the capacity to be educated…why are the parents sending their child to school? Nevertheless, technically the parents are correct. If their child has not met the criteria, established by the district, for promption to the next grade level the child should be held back. Unless there is an established rule stating age as a factor for promotion, one could argue discrimination based on age (ageism).

  8. Brittany S. Jenkins says:

    Being a special education teacher I believe EVERY child has the ability to learn. Her strength would be auditory and she could communicate using push buttons or movements. She could take the same test as other students as long as her work is modified. A classroom is not a daycare; I don’t think any child should spend more than two years in a grade. Yes, she may need to work on social skills but she can do so in first grade while working on academics as well, besides that’s the reason children are sent to school to learn academics. Her parents should have to take her other places to work on social skills.
    After a while, if not so now she will be much larger than the kids and on their social level if she is not able to hear how her peers act and respond to certain situations. Holding her back is only delaying her. I’m not sure how she was able to stay the third year, based on LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) in my opinion at 7 she was not in the correct setting. There is a better setting for her where she can continue to be pushed to learn. With the correct IEP she can receive modification and accommodations that will allow her to show what she has learned.

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