High school graduation is often bittersweet for the parents of high school students. Graduation is particularly difficult this year because of the traditions and ceremonies lost to the COVID-19 crisis. For the parents or guardians of students with disabilities graduation may come with additional challenges if it means a loss of important services for their child. This concern is all the more significant because the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 health crisis may mean that services were missed or delivered less effectively. Certain graduation requirements have also been modified in response to the public health crisis. New instructions from the New York State Department of Education allow parents and guardians to opt out of these modifications.

Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, the June and August, 2020 administrations of the New York State Regents Examinations were cancelled. The New York State Department of Education (NYSDOE) also announced modifications to the assessment requirements that students must meet in order to earn high school diplomas and credentials for this 2019-2020 school year. Included in these modifications was an exemption from this year’s Regents exams. 

On May 27, 2020, a memorandum from the NYSDOE informed parents and guardians that they have the option to explicitly decline the exemption of a student from the Regents Examination(s) or other assessment required for graduation.  If a parent or guardian declines the exemption, a diploma will not be conferred on such student at this time.   

The student’s school district must send a declination notification to all parents/guardians of students scheduled to graduate in June or August 2020 who have been exempted from a graduation assessment requirement. The notification must be sent “a minimum of 10 calendar days prior to the date on which a student shall receive a high school diploma”. So, families may be receiving these notifications in the coming days. 

The decision to decline the graduation requirement must be submitted on the written declination form forwarded from the school district with the notification letter.  The decision to decline the exemption is irrevocable. 

For further information on this update, other Covid-19 related special education issues, or special education issues generally, please call our Education and Disability Rights Project at 516 292-8100 and ask for extensions 3118 or 3170.