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School Board Won't Let Students Cross Graduation Stage;
Classmates Organize Their Own Tribute

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 28, 2004

LYONS TOWNSHIP, ILLINOIS--The La Grange High School District says it wants students with disabilities to be treated like all other students.

That is why it is not allowing Brittany Booth, who has Down syndrome, to participate in commencement ceremonies along with her peers that do not have disabilities.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Booth, 18, has completed all of the required coursework at Lyons Township High School to be qualified to graduate within the usual four years. During that time, she never set foot in a special education classroom, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But she will not receive a diploma on June 6 because, as a student with a developmental disability, she is eligible for work training services -- valued at $4,000 a year -- until she is 21 years old. The district would consider her to have completed her high school education if she actually were to graduate, thereby forfeiting the training.

So, Booth's family suggested that Brittany, along with five other seniors with disabilities, be allowed to cross the stage during the ceremony and receive a certificate of completion instead of a diploma, like they do in many other Illinois schools.

The school board wouldn't have any part of that.

"The determining factor was that special-education parents have advocated forever that their children need to be treated equally. That is exactly what we're doing," said board President Mark Pera on Wednesday. "We don't want to open the door to countless exceptions."

"I worked my butt off in school every single day," said Booth, who wants to work in a nursing home. "I get A's and B's in everything. I should be part of it; all my peers and friends are a part of it."

Booth's classmates have decided on their own to honor those who will not be allowed to participate in commencement. A student-organized tribute has been scheduled for June 4 at the seniors' honors assembly or the class brunch.

"At least they'd have some way of being recognized even though . . . the school won't let them do something like just walk across the stage at graduation," said senior Ashley Richy, 18, who has known Booth since middle school.

"Senior faces diploma dilemma" (Chicago Tribune registration required - free)
"Students back disabled teen" (Chicago Tribune registration required - free)


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