Former Louisiana students get second chance

Disabled students denied diplomas due to exam scores now will be rewarded

BENTON, La. - Former Louisiana students with identified disabilities who finished high school coursework, but were denied diplomas due to not passing the state’s standardized exit exam will now be rewarded retroactively for their tenacity and hard work, and Bossier Schools are the pilot district for implementation.

During the 2016 legislative session, Louisiana legislators passed a bill that was signed into law as Act 303 by Gov. Joh Bel Edwards that allows individuals with disabilities to petition the school system they attended for graduation and the diploma to prove it.

To date, the Bossier Schools have identified nearly 300 students, who may be eligible to receive their diplomas.

Although 30-year-old Willie Johnson completed 12th grade at Airline High School, his mother said his not having a diploma has adversely affected his job opportunities. 

Now, not only will Johnson and others receive their high school diplomas, but Bossier Schools is planning a graduation ceremony for Sunday, January 15, 2017 at Bossier Instructional Center, enabling former students to be handed their diploma on stage by Superintendent Scott Smith.  

Students identified with special needs that previously attended Bossier Schools will be eligible to retroactively receive a diploma if the Special Education department can confirm the student:

  • was identified as having a disability under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP); and
  • earned all required Carnegie Units and met other high school requirements; but
  • was denied a diploma solely for failing to meet the exit examination requirements.

“As we went down the list, I recognized so many former students now eligible,” said Dr. Nichole Bourgeois, Bossier Schools Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum. “It really tugs at our heartstrings and the district is elated to be able to go back and do what is right by providing these students the diplomas they worked so hard for but did not receive.”  

Those who believe they meet these requirements and should receive a diploma under Louisiana Act 303 must petition their local school board by December 31, 2017. Former Bossier Parish students may call the Special Education department at (318) 549-6137 or (318) 549-6119 to receive the necessary documents to apply for a diploma.   

Click here for the petition.

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