Disabled Students Denied Graduation - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

Disabled Students Denied Graduation

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By: Ariana Duarte and Kyra Jenkins

Michael Reta said he's been looking forward to his twin daughters' high school graduation for 18 years but now he feels it's being taken away.

"Just to watch them walk and to know that feeling that my kids did it...it's like the first time you see them when they're born," said Reta.

His daughters, Alyssa and Amanda Reta, were born with developmental disabilities and have been in special education courses all their lives.

When it came time for high school, their family had a decision to make; enroll the girls in "life learning courses" and receive a certificate after four years or try for a diploma. The girls and their family chose the harder path.

"We didn't know what the girls were capable of doing and we wanted to see what they were capable of doing," said Reta.

The challenge pulled Alyssa and Amanda past their learning disabilities and straight through four years at Buchanan High School.

The twins were on their way toward getting their caps and gowns but when both failed to pass the math portion of the California High School Exit Exam. They were told that they would not be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies or receive the diplomas they were counting on.

"I tried to do my best on that thing, but it was hard," said Alyssa.    

Kelly Avants, with the Clovis Unified School District, said the rules are the rules.

"If you're not meeting those requirements and thus, not getting to leave high school, we don't let you participate in the commencement ceremonies," said Avants.

In 2006 the state began requiring students to pass the exit exam in order to earn a diploma, but it wasn't until this year that the rule applied to special education students.

Still, the state allows students who don't pass the exam to walk in graduation; Clovis Unified, however, is one of the few districts in the state that does not.

"What our district is trying very hard to do is to create standards for our kids and then hold them accountable to those standards," said Avants.

But Michael Reta said his girls did the best they could to meet those standards and even if they don't receive a diploma, he wants Clovis Unified to give them the once-in-a-lifetime chance, to walk at next month's graduation.

"The policy is 'Leave No Child Behind' but they're willing to leave children behind when it suits them. It's just an atrocity," said Reta.

Michael Reta has appealed the graduation ban to the Clovis Unified School District.

A board is expected to make a decision by May 28th.

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