Special Education

Commencement Rule Questioned

By Christina A. Samuels — February 28, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In the Mount Lebanon, Pa., school district, students have typically been allowed to take part in graduation exercises only when they have completed their studies and are leaving school.

But that means some special education students who plan to continue taking classes until age 21 have been left out of the ceremony staged for their peers.

To Cate Scott, 18, a senior at Mount Lebanon High School, it didn’t seem fair that her friend Meghan MacLeod, also 18, couldn’t take part in graduation. Ms. MacLeod, who has Asperger’s syndrome, won’t leave school until she is 21, as permitted under federal law.

Pennsylvania allows districts to decide which students can participate in graduation, and traditionally, Mount Lebanon has said that students can do so only when they actually leave school.

So Ms. Scott started a petition drive to persuade the 5,500-student district to change its policy and allow students with disabilities to attend the graduation with other students who are completing high school in four years.

“People are really shocked about this. They couldn’t believe it. They thought it was really unfair,” she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Mount Lebanon district was considering making such a change on its own. The state is also is considering a similar move that would allow students with disabilities to participate in graduation after four years, receiving a certificate of attendance instead of a diploma.

Cissy Bowman, the district’s spokeswoman, said in an interview last week that the board’s policy committee will hammer out the phrasing and bring it to the full board in an upcoming meeting, she said.

Pennsylvania Rep. Russell H. Fairchild, who represents an area about four hours east of Mount Lebanon, said he got interested in the situation when one of his constituents said her daughter in another district would not be allowed to graduate with her pals.

The bill was passed unanimously by the state House of Representatives, and the Senate is expected to take up the measure this month. Mr. Fairchild said he expects it to pass.

“These kids come through their school careers with their best buddies,” he said. “They want to be part of [graduation]. They want to participate.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 2006 edition of Education Week


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Can AI Help With Special Ed.? There's Promise—and Reason to Be Cautious
Some special education professionals are experimenting with the technology.
3 min read
Photo collage of woman using tablet computer and AI icon.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Special Education Many Students Can Get Special Ed. Until Age 22. What Districts Should Do
School districts' responsibilities under federal special education law aren't always clear-cut.
4 min read
Instructor working with adult special needs student.
Special Education How a Mindset Shift Can Help Solve Special Education Misidentification
Many educators face the problem of misidentification of special education students. Here are strategies educators are using to fix it.
3 min read
Timothy Allison, a collaborative special education teacher in Birmingham, Ala., works with a student at Sun Valley Elementary School on Sept. 8, 2022.
Timothy Allison, a collaborative special education teacher in Birmingham, Ala., works with a student at Sun Valley Elementary School on Sept. 8, 2022.
Jay Reeves/AP
Special Education Impact of Missed Special Ed. Evaluations Could Echo for Years
The onset of COVID-19 slowed special education identification. Four years later, a new study hints at the massive scale of the impact.
6 min read
Blank puzzle pieces in a bunch with a person icon tile standing alone to the side.
Liz Yap/Education Week with iStock/Getty