Wrongful Graduation: What Are The Factors?

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The Issue

Parents and school districts sometimes argue over whether the district’s graduation of a special education student was appropriate – or was premature. One of the circumstances in which this can occur is when the student meets the standard criteria for graduation but arguably still is not ready for independent young adulthood. When there is still a dispute after the district has graduated the student, I refer to such disputes as wrongful graduation cases.

Special educators approach this issue knowing at least two things. First, we know that under the IDEA, graduation is a “change in placement.” This has procedural implications, including the notice requirement and the “stay put” requirement. Second, we know that some special education students graduate based on standard requirements, and others graduate “on their IEP goals.” In Doe v. Marlborough Public Schools, a June 2010 federal court decision from Massachusetts reminds us of the possibility of having to face a wrongful graduation claim, and provides an analytical framework that is relatively helpful for school districts.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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