Letters and Notes that made the difference!
Graduation for Students with Disabilities
It's official! As of May 1,
2006 HB 1618 is now a law!
You made a difference! You called, wrote, faxed and emailed your
legislators and asked them to support the rights of students with
disabilities to participate in graduation ceremonies after attending
four years of high school, while continuing their eligibility for
educational services after high school. Ashley's Law HB 1618 was
introduced on May 25, 2005 by Representative Fairchild makes this
practice fair and consistent across the state for all students.
Even though the state
embraced a policy that enabled students with disabilities to
participate in graduation and still continue with eligible services,
it remained the decision
of the local school boards. Depending on where a student lived in
PA, it could determine if after an entire school life experience
with a class, including four years in high school, they could be
denied the opportunity to celebrate with the peers from their class.
It does no harm to anyone for the student with a disability to
participate in their graduation ceremony, but it does do great harm
to deny them the opportunity. Now it's the law!
This issue was
brought to the forefront by Mrs. Debra Brubaker, a parent who fought
for her daughter Ashley's right to participate with her peers in
graduation as they left high school. The school board initially was
prohibiting Ashley from participating in the graduation ceremony,
until Mrs. Brubaker and others went into action!
- January 22, 2005 The Governor
of Illinois signed "Brittany's Law"
requiring school districts operating high schools to allow
children with disabilities who have completed four years of high
school, but who will continue to receive special education,
related services, vocational training, or transition services in
accordance with their IEPs, to participate in the commencement
ceremonies with their classmates.
- May 25, 2005 PA
Representative Russell Fairchild introduced a bill called "Ashley's
- June 3, 2005 the Bill is
referred to Committee on Education
members who have signed on as of June 3rd: Fairchild, Pallone,
Fleagle, Phillips, Belfanti, Benninghoff, Boyd, Caltagirone,
Cappelli, Cprnell, Creighton, Dally, J. Evans, Fabrizio,
Frankel, Geist, George, Gergely, Harhai, Harris, Hennessey,
Hershey, Killion, Leach, Mann, Markosek, O'Neill, Pickett,
Preston, Quigley, Roebuck, Staback, T. Stevenson, Sturla,
Tangretti, E. Z. Taylor, Thomas, Tigue, True, Wojnaroski,
Youngblood, Yudichak & Kauffman
- Jim Buckheit, Executive
Director, PA State Board of Education,
Members of the PA House of Representatives
DATE: May 3,
Proposed legislation --Special education student participation in
Recently I was contacted by a constituent who brought
to my attention the passage of a law in Illinois that permits
special education students who have completed four (4) years of high
school to participate in graduation exercises with their classmates,
although they still have additional classes or instruction in
special education, transition learning, transition services, or
related services to complete. This is not intended to replace the
completion of academic requirements or attainment of academic
standards. It is intended to require districts to have a policy
allowing participation in graduation exercises by those students who
have completed the four years of coursework in high school. In the
near future I plan to introduce legislation to effect the same
policy change here in Pennsylvania.
There are too many special needs students who are
stigmatized by the fact that they are not considered part of the
graduating class, despite completion of their four years of high
school. Currently, some school districts permit special needs
students to participate in the exercises, while others do not. It
is time for a consistent policy throughout the Commonwealth. This
legislation will standardize the practice for special needs seniors
If you wish to join me in sponsoring this
legislation, please contact my office at
Similar Headlines from Chicago
Story from the
Chicago Tribune. Congratulations to Brittany and her Mom Kim!
On January 21st, Governor Blagojevich signed Brittany's Law!
Law OKs diplomas
for the disabled
Published January 22, 2005
LA GRANGE -- Brittany's Law, a bill that allows disabled students to participate
in high-school graduation and still have access to state-guaranteed services,
was signed into law Friday by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The law was enacted on the heels of a Tribune report in May about Brittany
Booth, 18, a Lyons Township High School student with Down syndrome.
Officials at the La Grange school initially told her that accepting a diploma
would signify the end of her schooling and therefore she would forfeit the right
to work-training services guaranteed to disabled students through the age of 21.
Illinois State Board of Education officials previously recommended that schools
give students certificates of completion instead of a diploma at graduation. But
Lyons Township officials refused, saying they didn't want to treat disabled
That changed after state legislators drafted the law in June.
House Bill 757,
called "Brittany's Law", passed the Illinois Senate Thursday, November 18th by a
vote of 59-0. The bill now moves to the House. House Bill 757 would require
school districts that operate high schools to allow children with disabilities
who have completed 4 years of high school, but who will continue to receive
special education, related services, vocational training or transition services
in accordance with their IEPs, to participate in the commencement ceremonies
with their classmates. The bill addresses a problem that has arisen occasionally
where school officials have denied students with disabilities the opportunity to
participate in graduation ceremonies with their age peers. Since there is
currently no State policy on this issue, it is left to the discretion of local
school boards and adminstrators to determine whether to allow the student to !
Brittany, a young woman from the Chicago suburbs, was denied that opportunity
last Spring, but eventually was allowed to participate due to the intervention
of State Senator Christine Radogno(R-Lemont) and Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Senator Radogno is the chief sponsor of HB 757 in the Senate.
(Portion of P.A. 93-1079 that constitutes Brittany's
Participation in graduation ceremony.
(a) This Section
may be referred to as Brittany's Law. The General Assembly finds the following:
year, school districts across this State celebrate their students'
accomplishments through graduation ceremonies at which high school diplomas
are bestowed upon students who have completed their high school
are children with disabilities in this State who have finished 4 years of
high school, but whose individualized education programs prescribe the
continuation of special education, transition planning, transition services,
or related services beyond the completion of 4 years of high school.
(3) It is
well-established that the awarding of a high school diploma to and the high
school graduation of a child with a disability is tantamount to the
termination of eligibility for special education and related services for
the student under applicable federal law.
children with disabilities who will continue their public education in
accordance with their individualized education programs after finishing 4
years of high school wish to celebrate their accomplishments by
participating in a graduation ceremony with their classmates.
opportunity for classmates with disabilities and those without disabilities
to celebrate their accomplishments together only occurs once, and the
opportunity to celebrate the receipt of a diploma several years after one's
classmates have graduated diminishes the experience for students whose age
peers have left high school several years earlier.
March 1, 2005, each school district that operates a high school must have a
policy and procedures that allow a child with a disability who will have
completed 4 years of high school at the end of a school year to participate in
the graduation ceremony of the student's high school graduating class and
receive a certificate of completion if the student's individualized education
program prescribes special education, transition planning, transition services,
or related services beyond the student's 4 years of high school. The policy and
procedures must require timely and meaningful written notice to children with
disabilities and their parents or guardians about the school district's policy
and procedures adopted in accordance with this Section.
(c) The State
Board of Education shall monitor and enforce compliance with the provisions of
this Section and is authorized to adopt rules for that purpose.