The Family of Liam Huff
Fully Include Liam in First Grade and Treat Him with Dignity
When I see my son, Liam, I see a fun-loving 7-year-old kid. Unfortunately, the administrators of our school district don’t see him that way. Liam has Down syndrome and, according to them, that makes him less deserving of a normal education. Instead, they want to keep my son holed away, separated from other students his age, with a different curriculum more suitable for someone “like him.” My son deserves the opportunity to study with his nondisabled classmates and be treated like any other child. And the court agrees -- a judge ruled that the Mill Valley School District (MVSD) has failed to provide my son a free and appropriate public education. In court, my heart broke as Liam’s aide testified that he was once forced to stand outside in the rain because he wasn’t welcome in class. She said that he was ultimately put in a trailer behind the school, away from credentialed teachers and isolated from his peers for the majority of the day. Even after the ruling, the school district has yet to act, and that's why I’ve started this petition. I am asking you to join me in demanding that the MVSD and its administration allow Liam to be fully included in general education with the appropriate services and supports. Liam should have the chance to participate in the general education classroom before any other option is tried, as is his right by law. All over America, schools are rejecting the outdated “one-size-fits-all” philosophy of exclusion for children with disabilities. It is no longer a rarity to walk into a school and see children with Down syndrome or other disabilities learning core subjects alongside their nondisabled peers. This practice of welcoming, valuing, empowering and supporting diverse academic and social learning among students of all abilities is called inclusion. Recent studies have shown academic and social benefits for all students who participate in an inclusive classroom, including the fostering of friendships and an appreciation and acceptance of differences that goes far beyond the classroom, into the community at large. And for someone like Liam, who has never been separated from “the rest of society”, it is a continuation of the philosophy we practice at home. As of yet, Liam has not been fully included. He hasn’t been provided with the appropriate services and supports he needs. So far, he has missed an entire year of normal kindergarten. This is unacceptable. No one deserves this kind of treatment, especially not a 7-year-old kid. Please help me make a change for the better in my child’s life and the lives of others who will come after him.