AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Court rules against sister of teen rapper from Gwinnett


When we last checked on Sarah Grace Morris, her family was asking a federal appeals court to make sure she was educated in a regular classroom, not segregated in Gwinnett County’s special-education system.

Sarah Grace is something of a celebrity, at least among the tween crowd that follows her brother, the rapper known as MattyB. Sarah Grace, 10, who has Down syndrome, has appeared in videos with MattyB, including one that has been viewed almost 70 million times. (A behind-the-scenes video about that video has rung up another 6 million views.)

Celebrity, though, did not sway a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The judges ruled that the Gwinnett County school district did not violate Sarah Grace’s right to be educated in the least-restrictive appropriate setting. The school district had placed Sarah Grace in special education for key classes, including reading, writing and math.

Her “special educational needs with respect to learning in reading, writing and math are such that she requires direct, explicit, small group instruction with drill and repetition,” the court’s ruling said. Her needs were so great, the court said, that she couldn’t be educated in those subjects in a regular classroom, even with special accommodations.

The court agreed with previous rulings that making enough changes in the regular classroom to educate Sarah Grace “would not be feasible and would modify the regular curriculum beyond recognition.”

Sarah Grace’s family could have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling, but decided to drop the case.

Sarah Grace’s father, Blake Morris, announced the decision on Twitter earlier this month.

“After a long battle for inclusion … we finally moved to private school,” he wrote.

Morris’ forum for the announcement seems appropriate, considering the degree to which the case played out in social media. MattyB – 13-year-old Matthew, in real life – kept his 768,000 Twitter followers updated with posts that were shared hundreds of thousands of times. He has featured Sarah Grace in enough videos that the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s magazine dubbed them “YouTube’s Dynamic Brother-Sister Duo.”

Sharing his father’s announcement on Twitter, MattyB wrote: “I will always continue to pray for change for those less fortunate and hope I can help make a difference some day!”

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