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Sen. Dennis Parrett’s dream of giving special needs students a high school diploma will be expanded to include those who already have graduated.
Legislation sponsored by Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, last year enabled high school students with severe disabilities to receive an alternative high school diploma instead of a certificate of attainment for completing a modified curriculum. Now, those who already have graduated from high school retroactively can receive an alternative diploma.
The Kentucky Board of Education approved a change to state regulations that would allow school boards to award the diplomas to graduates who request them. John Wright, community relations director for Hardin County Schools, said the district plans to take part in the opportunity. Superintendent Gary French of Elizabethtown Independent Schools said he will discuss plans with the EIS board and district administrators.
Senate Bill 43 passed in 2012, and was inspired by Parrett’s experience with his daughter, Kristen, a student at Central Hardin High School. Once the legislation was passed, Parrett said he received numerous calls from families asking about those who graduated and received a certificate.
Pam Hinton and her son Adam, 23, a graduate of John Hardin High School, worked with Parrett on the original legislation. Parrett said Adam asked about his own chance to receive a diploma.
Parrett said he planned to file new legislation to retroactively award the diplomas. Kentucky Department of Education officials decided to include the opportunity in regulations regarding alternative diplomas.
School districts aren’t mandated to award diplomas to graduates, Parrett said. These regulations simply allow them to do so if they receive a request. Education department spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said districts could create their own policies regarding the issue. Graduates should contact their school district to request a diploma or gather more information.
Parrett said diplomas are good for the self-esteem of graduates and can help with job searches.
Pam Hinton said her son will be thrilled to learn about the opportunity. The alternative diplomas show the value of what the students accomplished and the “worth of their efforts,” she said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.