Highland High School special needs senior Kevyn Barton is expected to find out Tuesday whether he can walk in this year’s graduation ceremony.
Although the 18-year-old is not graduating this year and will continue in his special education program until he is 22, he wants to don his cap and gown and participate in the ceremony with the friends he’s known since kindergarten.
Barton’s family is fighting for not only their son’s right to walk, but also for other special needs students in similar circumstances. They want the district to revise the policy, allowing special needs students the opportunity to participate in the ceremony with their “age-appropriate peers.”
The district has received a number of e-mails asking the board to allow Kevyn to walk.
A Facebook page entitled “Let Kevyn Walk!” has more than 460 members.
Kevyn’s dad, LRay Barton, stepmother, Kari Anne Barton, and mother, Teresa Moya, believe that the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) team, including the student and parents, should determine the best time for a special needs student to take part in commencement, because “they should only participate once.”
Gilbert Unified School District policy says students cannot participate in a graduation ceremony unless they are actually graduating. Extenuating circumstances are only given for students with a terminal illness, Superintendent Dave Allison has said.
However, some foreign exchange students are allowed to walk without having met the graduation requirement.
In this case, the Barton family is arguing this “shows precedent and accommodations for students who have not met graduation requirements and are not receiving a diploma, but who are allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony based upon the courses in which they are enrolled.”
Board president Thad Stump said he believes this is a different issue.
The governing board is expected to discuss the issue and make a decision at its 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting, held at the district office, 140 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert.
Stump said the board could do one of four things:
• Agree with the current policy, but decide to waive it for Kevyn’s case and allow him to walk.
• Direct administration to modify the policy to allow special needs students to possibly participate in a graduation ceremony, and allow Kevyn to walk.
• Stick with the current policy and not allow Kevyn to walk.
• Ask for more information and decide at a future meeting.
Stump said he’s “really struggling” with what decision he’ll make, and added he probably won’t decide until he hears more from district staff and anyone who speaks at the meeting.
“To me, it’s a tough one,” Stump said. “I can make arguments both ways.”