On May 1, 2006, Governor Rendell signed Act 31 which enacted a new Section 1614 of the School Code to permit participation in High School graduation ceremonies by non-graduating disabled students. The new law is to take effect immediately and School Districts should take steps to implement the law for graduation ceremonies in 2006 and into the future.
The new Section 1614 recognizes that there are students with disabilities whose IEP provides for continued special education programs beyond the fourth year of High School. That Section provides that as long as the student has attended four years of High School, regardless of whether they have completed the IEP program, they may still participate in graduation ceremonies with the student’s graduating class and receive a Certificate of Attendance. The change in the law does not prevent a student with a disability from receiving a High School Diploma when the student satisfactorily completes his or her IEP, nor does it require a student to participate in graduation ceremonies based solely on four years of High School attendance. The General Assembly’s discussion of Act 31 recognized that “the opportunity for classmates with disabilities to celebrate their accomplishments together occurs only 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.”
IEP teams should consider whether a student has attended four years of high school and is therefore entitled, if the student so desires, to participate in graduation ceremonies.