Last Updated on April 29, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
When a special needs student graduates from high school with a regular diploma, all of a school’s special education legal obligations end. Prior to the student’s graduation, an exit IEP (Individualized Educational Program) meeting and proper notices are required, so the IEP student can transition successfully after graduation to their future life.
Graduation IS a Change of Placement
When a special needs student is to be put in a new placement for more than 10 days, this is called a “change of placement.” As an IEP student graduating from high school is no longer going to be attending their high school, and the school placement in their IEP plan will terminate, this is a legal change of placement.
Exit IEP Meeting and Notice of Change of Placement on Graduation
Because the graduating special education student will be leaving their high school, their school should hold an exit IEP sometime prior to graduation. At the IEP meeting, the IEP team should notify the student they will be exiting special education.
At the IEP prior to the student graduating, the transition from high school will be discussed, as well as the student’s education rights. The fact that obligations to provide special education services will end should also be discussed.
It is important that the graduating student attend this pre-graduation IEP and be actively involved.
Prior to graduation, the student should receive proper notices of the impending change of placement and will be provided with a “Summary of Performance.“
Student Should Be Invited to Pre-Graduation IEP Meeting
For most of a special needs student’s education, they are not actively involved in the formulation of their IEP plan or IEP meetings. Often students have been more bystanders in the development of their IEP plan, accommodations and educational services.
Graduating students should no longer be bystanders in the IEP process. The graduating IEP student should be invited to the pre-graduation IEP, aka the “exit IEP.”
IEP students should participate in the exit IEP, as they will usually be taking over any educational matters post-graduation. If a student will have a legal conservator (person who helps them with decisions as they are not capable) once they graduate, they should still be invited to and participate in the exit IEP if possible.
Graduation Via Regular Diploma Ends Special Education Obligations
When a special education student graduates with a regular diploma, meaning they have met all the regular graduation requirements of their school, they receive a high school diploma just like any student. The IEP student will then walk at graduation and be involved as would any graduating high school senior, regardless of being a special needs student.
Regular graduation terminates all obligations of the school and school district to provide IEP services or special education supports to the student.
Turning Eighteen Means a Transition of Special Education Rights to Student
When a special education student turns 18, their education rights transfer to them. This means, depending on the student’s age, they may already hold their own educational rights even prior to regular high school graduation.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.