Severely disabled students in New York State who could not complete state Regents exams have had the option to obtain a different diploma through individualized education programs. But as our Amanda Kelley tells us, the State Board of Regents has voted to change that program and it's concerning many disabled student advocates.
NEW YORK STATE -- Diplomas for severely disabled students in the State of New York are changing form. The State Board of Regents recently voted to change the 'Individual Education Program' Diploma, one some local educators say was confusing.
Jefferson-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Jay Boak said, "Right now, the IEP diploma is really quite vague, so this has been an attempt to remedy that."
Taking its place would be a new achievement certificate.
Boak said, "The whole idea was to provide parents, students and most importantly employers with more definitive information of what kind of program the student had while they were in school, and what kind of skills they have once they leave school."
But legislators in Jefferson County are speaking out against the change. In a meeting Tuesday, the Health and Human Services Committee passed a resolution urging the Regents Board to reconsider.
Jefferson County Legislator Phil Reed said, "I think it's about treating people with dignity if they're willing to put in the extra hours to work through a program they deserve a diploma."
Reed has three sons, one whom is disabled. He says he's advocating for all students like his son who work hard and deserve to be recognized with a diploma.
Reed said, "I do fear that people will just drop out of school. Why put in the time if you're not going to be rewarded for it. And who wants to put in 15 years of school to get a certificate?"
Although several educators believe the IEP Program is essential, others hope the new system can help severely disabled students move more smoothly into a job in their communities.
Boak said, "I think ultimately in this case will help employers, know what type of skills a student is bringing to a job, so it's not just a certificate, there's much more."
Changing the dynamic of education for disabled students across the state.