SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) — A lawsuit filed in federal court accuses Utah State University of unlawfully discriminating against and expelling a student with Down syndrome during her first term.
Emily Arthur was in the Aggies Elevated program which offers students a mix of career exploration and independent living leading to a certificate, the Deseret News reported. The program is funded by a federal grant.
The lawsuit filed in Utah’s U.S. District Court seeks unspecified damages and injunctive relief.
The lawsuit says as a result of the university’s “intentional discrimination,” Arthur was “degraded, dehumanized and humiliated.”
University spokesperson Amanda DeRito said Utah State University typically doesn’t comment on current litigation, but the lawsuit is troubling in its misrepresentation of facts and how it portrays the Aggies Elevated program.
According to the lawsuit, Arthur was provisionally accepted into the program in 2018 and began participating in activities leading up to moving into student housing on the Logan campus.
At no point, did anyone with the program inform Arthur or her parents that she was not ready or unqualified to participate, the lawsuit says.
Arthur moved into her dorm and after starting a course, her mother received a text from a professor’s assistant who told her those providing instruction and assistance to the students did not know ‘what to do’ with Emily, the lawsuit says. They had never had a student with Down syndrome, asserted the professor’s assistant.
Moreover, Arthur’s parents were told that a second-year Aggies Elevated program member would be assigned as a dorm companion; a mentor would help her navigate the campus; there would be tutoring; and an iHome Google Mini installed in her dorm room “to help her maintain a schedule, stay on task and dress appropriately for the weather,” the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, none of those were provided.
In late August, Arthur’s mother was asked to meet with program officials, who told her her daughter was not ready for college and required that she abide by a behavior contract, which could result in expulsion, according to the lawsuit. Officials said Arthur failed to make it to class on time, and that she had been removed from a school dance for dancing inappropriately, the suit says.
On Aug. 27, 2018, a teacher reported that Arthur fiddled with her bra strap during class and inadvertently exposed “a little bit of skin and her bra,” the lawsuit says.
Her mother then received a call from officials who told her “Emily was purportedly a danger to herself, was in danger of being ‘dragged under a stairwell’ by a predator,” and without notice removed her from the program, the lawsuit says.
DeRito said the programs is “one of the few such programs in the intermountain region to offer an inclusive residential living component, and it requires that its students have a level of independence appropriate to living on campus and interacting with peers.