Governor expects to OK 1-year diploma exemption for disabled: If approved, the exemption would affect about 10 students in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District |

Governor expects to OK 1-year diploma exemption for disabled: If approved, the exemption would affect about 10 students in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District

William Ferchland

A possible one-year exemption for disabled students who do not pass an exam mandatory for high school graduation applies to less than 10 pupils in Lake Tahoe Unified School District, an official said Monday.

The exemption, which is in the form of legislation as SB 517 and expected to be signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was proposed by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles. If enacted it would allow disabled students to receive a high school diploma even if they haven’t passed the California High School Exit Exam, which is a new requirement for the Class of 2006. The subject will be deliberated in closed session today by the school board.

“Just in time, this legislation provides a measure of justice to many hardworking high-school students who are otherwise on track to graduate this year,” said Sen. Romero, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Urban School Governance and serves on the Senate Committee on Education, in a prepared statement. “SB 517 is about equal access to well-earned diplomas. It’s a compromise bill that ends a long, expensive, and courageous battle for thousands of kids who faced being left out of the 2006 high school commencement ceremonies.”

Marie Meagher, director of special education services for Lake Tahoe Unified School District, said less than 10 disabled students who are seniors in high school have yet to pass the exam. Other disabled students, who were either given special considerations, such as extra time, or none at all, have passed the exam in the district, Meagher said.

Superintendent James Tarwater thought the exception should be made permanent “because disabilities don’t come and go. They’re identified and stay with the person for (the rest of) their life.”

The federal government recognizes 13 disabilities, from physical to emotional, for students to be classified as needing special education, Meagher said.

“I think the accountability is good for our students but we need to have accommodations for those that don’t pass,” she said.

Meagher said she wouldn’t mind not having the exemption as long as tools were made available to disabled students in efforts to help pass the test.

The bill would exempt disabled high school seniors from the exam if they have an Individualized Education Plan, are on track with class work and credits for graduation, adhere to other graduation requirements and have taken the exam at least twice beyond their sophomore year, including once in their senior year, according to Romero’s statement.

Romero’s bill, which was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week and is scheduled to go before the vote of the full assembly this week, has components of a 2005 settlement in the case of Chapman v. the California Department of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the State Board of Education.

The lawsuit pertained to a Fremont teenager with learning disabilities who wanted leeway with taking the exam.

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