Billings School District 2 Quiet While Viral Petition for Student Smashes Goal
The fight for Emily Pennington is still ongoing across Billings and the state of Montana. The Billings teen with Down Syndrome who is not being allowed to enter her senior year and graduate has been blowing up local social media and the Breakfast Flakes as her parents are fighting to see their daughter walk across the stage. A petition hoping to change the minds of School District 2 (SD2) has since gone viral, while SD2 hasn't really said anything regarding it at all.
Policy 2050: The Age-Out Policy
According to many news sources, SD2 is not allowing Emily to graduate due to Policy 2050 outlined in the student handbook. The policy states:
The District usually will not assign or admit any person who has reached age 19 on or before September 10 of the year to be enrolled; however, a waiver to this usual practice may be granted.
The argument is that the policy doesn't take into account those students who need extra education, such as those with special needs. Montana House Bill 233 was passed and implemented in July of last year, which allows students with disabilities, like Emily, to be in the school system statewide until the age of 21. Superintendent Greg Upham has stated that despite the law, it allows local districts to choose their own policies. That's the major issue here, and what has SD2 done?
Silence. Absolute silence from the school.
There is absolutely no mention of Emily on any form of social media that SD2 operates, and it's missing from their meeting agendas on their website, despite multiple appeals from Emily's family to include the issue.
Being a parent with a disabled son that went through school district 2 most of his life, it was hell to say the least. Many teachers that were helping me from the beginning getting my son mainstreamed were reprimanded and one teacher was "encouraged" to retire. Stating they need to follow the guidelines of the schools district. I asked what the guidelines were and was told parents dont need to know that information. They failed 2 of the 3 of my kids. I do not recommend SD2 to anyone!
- Mary T. on Facebook
Many people have been vocal on social media regarding Emily's issue, from locals all the way to Dr. Adrian Wood and her blog Tales of an Educated Debutante from North Carolina. A petition on Change.org made by Wood has absolutely exploded, reaching over 8,700 signatures at the time of publishing this article. Wood has also made multiple videos regarding Emily's situation on her Facebook page here.
If you are interested in signing the petition for Billings student Emily Pennington, you can find it here
The new goal is 10,000 signatures. Let's get it even further than that. I stand with Emily, and I hope you do too.