Arizona Attorneys Question Guidance For Students With Disabilities And Graduation

By Mariana Dale, Steve Goldstein
Published: Tuesday, June 4, 2019 - 9:16am
Updated: Tuesday, June 4, 2019 - 1:37pm

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If you have a child with disabilities and have had challenges related to high school graduation KJZZ’s Mariana Dale wants to talk to you. Email her at [email protected] or call 480-774-8237. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.


Over the last five years an average of 61,387 students annually have received their diploma in four years around the state. Close to 5,000 of those students each year had a disability.

The Arizona Department of Education released a draft of new guidance for students with disabilities and graduation earlier this year

It’s basically an eight-page Q&A.

I’ve started to hear from attorneys who specialize in helping students with disabilities who see some problems in the material.

The Arizona Center for Disability Law sent a letter to ADE outlining its concerns.

For example, the Center believes the language doesn’t explain a school’s legal obligations to modify graduation requirements for students with disabilities.

Attorney Amanda Glass said that’s at odds with existing Arizona code.

“That was the primary inconsistency, whether or not IEP (individualized education program) teams have the latitude to set different graduation requirements for students with disabilities,” Glass said.

Some background: an individualized education program is a document created by educators and parents meant to ensure a student with disabilities receives the right services and is working toward their goals.

To graduate in Arizona, students need to complete 22 school credits that encompass English, math, science, history and other subjects.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act says these students should also receive help transitioning to life after high school.

That could mean anything from teaching students how to access special services in college to showing them how to eat in a restaurant or rent an apartment.

Students with disabilities can be entitled to attend a public school and receive services until they’re 22 years old.

Glass is worried that if the guidance doesn’t do a good job of explaining the nuanced and complex topic that is special education law, educators and and parents won’t have the right information to determine if or when a child with disabilities should graduate.

“It’s a fine line between a student with a disability who is given the opportunity to earn a diploma with the appropriate accommodations and modifications and a student who is being forced to graduate when they haven’t achieved the requirements to earn that diplomas and is therefore being cut off from services prematurely,” Glass said.

The Arizona Department of Education does not have a set timeline on finalizing the guidance and is still gathering feedback on that draft guidance.

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