What’s the Rush?
Sometimes there is a headlong rush to get out of high school. I don’t get it. What is the big rush?
First of all, students with disabilities have an entitlement to attend school for a free appropriate public education (FAPE) until they are 21. In Maryland that entitlement has been extended through the school year in which a student turns 21. So if a child has a July birthday and his/her school year starts in July or August, that student has almost another full year of entitlement. The wonderful thing about entitlement is that a school system cannot blame lack of funding as the reason for not providing the program.
Once a student graduates with a diploma or a certificate that entitlement is done, no matter the student’s age. The key is the document. If a student quits school at 17 but decides that was a dumb idea and wants to return to school, she/he can do that up until 21. So why are some families pushing the schools to give their child a diploma or certificate. Some really dumb reasons have been advanced, such as “he is done with school”, “her cousins are graduating and they are the same age”, “he is older than his siblings, so he should graduate first.”. These are really very short sighted reasons. The other thing families should know is that graduation represents a change in placement. So if a family feels it is being shoved out by the school system, a family does not need to accept that change in placement. The law recognizes that the child will be losing services. Appeal!
Yes there are adult services agencies out there once a student has finished high school. Students with disabilities may be eligible for these services. Some of the services are not available until the student is 21. Other agencies do serve younger kids. BUT, only as long as the money lasts. That is the thing about eligible, there are no promises. No promises for money and no promises that the criteria that make you eligible for the services are not going to change whereby you will no longer be eligible. These services are usually funded by a combination of federal and state funds. The federal fiscal year opens on October 1. It is not unusual for the money for new applicants for these services to be gone by the end of the month. Serving continuing needs comes first.
People with disabilities are significantly underemployed and unemployed. The world of competitive employment is not welcoming people with disabilities and that is particularly so with today’s job market.
So what is the rush to get out of school? Being in school gives students the opportunity to learn more and garner new skills. Always a good plan. Living on the edge can be a good thing, but not in this case. What’s the rush to step off the edge? Beats me.