When High School Graduation Results in Termination of Services

An Advocate for Special Needs Individuals and Services

Some special education services will be terminated when the qualifying person graduates from high school, when the goals of the IEP are achieved, or when the individual reaches age 22. Once those goals are reached, a range of services may still be available.

FAPE: Free Appropriate Public Education

Federal law guarantees the right to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with special needs. Children have a legal right under IDEA, the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.” Under the Act, children have the right to a free education. The services provided to the child must be appropriate, with the child having an IEP program (Individualized Education Program).

Some children may have what is called a “504 plan” that allows equal access to learning, and prevents discrimination, with a similar end goal – to allow all children to thrive in school. Under FAPE, the public school supervises the program. The IEP team, which is made up of the teachers, parents, and other support personnel work to decide on the services and support the child needs.

When a Child Graduates – Are They Ready?

Under IDEA, the school must notify the parents of any proposed or refused action, including the plan to graduate from high school. Once the child graduates, they are no longer eligible for the educational services provided by the school. A school may propose that a child graduate who is not yet ready to become employed and has not reached the potential that further education could offer.

Parents have the right to respond to a proposal to graduate a child when they do not feel it is the appropriate action for the child. Your child has the right to receive free educational services until age 22 in many cases. Parents can take action to prevent the loss of services.

Stock v. Massachusetts Hospital School: Case Law and Your Child’s Rights

This watershed case involved the court ordering the recission of a high school diploma, and declared:

it would be insidious if graduation proceedings were employed as a device to circumvent the Federal mandate by prematurely terminating special education services.

If you believe that your child’s educational services are being ended prematurely, you may want to consult with our special needs attorney at Woodsmall Law Group to address the issue.

Legal Conservatorship and High School Diploma

When a special education student graduates from high school, they are the sole individual authorized to respond to this proposed change, unless legal conservatorship was established by a parent or guardian. If you have concerns that your child is not yet prepared to be employed, and has been pressured to agree to accepting a high school diploma, or feels they want this achievement, our firm can be of assistance in sorting through the complexities and making plans to benefit your child, and allow for a continuation of their special education services, which in many cases, can be provided until age 22.

A Collaborative Approach

Your child may want to participate in the graduation ceremony and is excited by the prospect but is not yet ready to end the special education services the school provides. If you work in collaboration with the high school, a solution beneficial to the child can be established, such as participating in the walk at the graduation ceremony, but not given the diploma that would end their access to the special education classes the law mandates.

Your Child’s Rights to Special Education

Children with these disabilities are eligible for special education classes:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Hearing impairments
  • Speech or language impairments
  • Visual impairments
  • Emotional disturbances
  • Orthopedic impairments
  • Autism
  • TBI
  • Specific learning disabilities
  • Developmental delays

High school graduation ends eligibility and being aware of a proposed graduation will allow the parent or guardian to get involved in ensuring the child continues access to special education classes until age 22.

For a special education advocate serving Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena and La Canada, call (626) 440-0028.