Ninth Circuit Court Rules Student with Down syndrome Can Be Moved to Life Skills Class at New School

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled an Arizona school district can move an elementary student with Down syndrome to a public school outside his neighborhood. The student would receive an additional 20 minutes of Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) in an “academic SCILLS classroom” at this new school.

The Appeals Court decided that the district’s decision to move the student was a change of location, not a change of placement. The court quoted the recent Supreme Court Case, Endrew F., to argue that the student would make more meaningful progress in the special class at the new school.

Read Related Post: How School Districts Are Using a Supreme Court Case Against Students with Down Syndrome


The student’s parents argued against the additional 20 service minutes, stating that it would mean less time in the general education classroom. But the Ninth Circuit judges quoted Endrew F.: “even when the other factors weigh in favor of mainstreaming, the student’s academic needs ‘weigh most heavily against a mainstream environment.'”

You can read the decision for R.M. v. Gilbert Unified School District in it’s entirety here.

There is one piece of good news out of this decision: It’s NOT PRECEDENT! The 9th District did cite that their decision in R.M. v. Gilbert Unified School District is not precedent, except when relevant under the doctrine of law of the case itself. This is good news: other districts can’t use this case to argue for a similar move. The student’s family has yet to make a decision about appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Still, the decision is detrimental to our community. After 40 years of research touting the benefits of inclusion on all children, society still believes children with intellectual disabilities should be educated separately. Not one evidence-based research study, since studies began on the topic, have shown more benefit for students in a special class. Still we fight the perception that “special” and “separate” will lead to more “meaningful benefit” for our children.

Read Related Post: 7 Research Studies You Can Use at Your Next IEP Meeting to Win the Fight for Inclusion

School districts should be focused on changing the general education environment to benefit all students through Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and diverse learner training for all teachers. Instead, districts are using the same old model of segregation that’s leads to a 50% graduation rate for all students on IEPs (much higher for students with significant disabilities), and an 80% unemployment rate for people with disabilities.

Read Related Post: Promoting Inclusion Through Universal Design for Learning

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