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Boy With Down Syndrome Can Attend Regular Preschool, For Now
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 26, 2003

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA--Four-year-old Gavin Blount should attend a regular preschool classroom with specialized support -- at least for now -- a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Gavin's grandparents, Marty and Teresa Blount, who adopted the boy at birth, believe that he would be more successful with children his own age that do not have disabilities. They sued the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit in February after they tried for nearly a year to have Gavin, who has Down syndrome, placed in a regular classroom. The Blounts claimed that the agency violated federal laws which require children with disabilities to be taught in the "least restrictive environment".

According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson sent the case back to a state Education Department hearing officer after ruling that the intermediate unit must at least try to place Gavin into a regular classroom with special assistance.

"However, mindful of the wise precedent which cautions District Court judges against substituting their own educational philosophies for those of the authorized state officials, this court treads lightly at this time as to any specific final result," Baylson wrote.

Baylson also noted that the intermediate unit and the state hearing officer had not met the burden of proof to "disregard the Congressional preference for mainstreaming."

The Blounts had refused a proposal by Intermediate Unit officials to place Gavin in an "early intervention" program which includes children with and without disabilities in the same classroom.

"We just hope this paves the way for other children with disabilities being placed in typical preschools," Teresa Blount said of the judge's decision.


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