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Mother claiming Peoria Public Schools is discriminating against her child with special needs

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PEORIA (WEEK) -- Peoria Public School students of all grades are returning to in-person learning in less than two weeks, but a local mother is upset because her daughter isn't included in that. Now, she has already filed a complaint against the district, claiming discrimination.

Peoria Public Schools made the decision to bring students back to the classroom on March 1st, but it does not include students considered 'medically fragile' at three schools. Those students will stick to hybrid learning instead.

"It's terrible I have literally lost the trust of the administration," said PPS parent, Rachel Smith.

Smith's daughter lives with cerebral palsy which put her in that category. However, Rachel said her child should have the same educational opportunities as everyone else.

"General population your typical children get to go to school 5 days a week and our kids are kind of tossed aside. They're just another problem for another day," said Smith.

The district said it was not safe for students with complex medical needs to fully return to certain schools. Due to many of those students not being able to wear masks and needing extra staff in classrooms.

Smith said their points are valid, but wanted the district to accommodate students at all schools.

"District 150 is doing the exact opposite," said Smith.

The district said it made sure to have the appropriate amount of nursing staff for students throughout the pandemic. However, Smith said otherwise. She blamed lack of staff for her daughter's inability to return to full in-person learning at Thomas Jefferson Primary.

"My child's education should not be at risk because you can't staff a building properly," Smith continued, "Inclusion is not at your convenience. You have got to include these children all the time. 100%."

Smith filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights and plans to file one with the Illinois State Board of Education.

The district said its goal is to have the students considered 'medically fragile' at those three schools return to five day in-person learning on a phased approach this year.

Paige Blanzy

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