As one of my attorney friends said, “This question seems to come up every spring for the past 20 years.” Walking at graduation but not graduating is an issue that many IEP students encounter. After all, IEPs cover ages 3-21.

A student wants to walk with her class, but doesn’t complete her requirements until the summer. District says it’s policy that students can’t walk without fulfilling requirements. Are than any exceptions when the student has an IEP?

A man walking at graduation, but not graduating, wearing a graduation gown and smiling.

Can you walk at graduation without graduating from high school?

First, in almost all cases, an IEP (which is a Federal document) can override school policy.

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As a side note, this is so frustrating! Why would you not want to give a child their moment in the sun? They have worked just as hard (in many cases, worked harder, overcome more obstacles) to get there, and it’s not any extra work to allow a child to walk. It feels spiteful.

School Graduation Policy

You will have to do an internet search for your state’s policies and codes regarding graduation. I have the PA code quoted below, and it very specifically addresses this.

Other states may not be so specific. To my knowledge, IDEA does not address this. This is one of those “leave it up to the states” issues.

13th year graduation walk

That said, if your state does not specifically prohibit this, you have a strong case for your child. Get engaged early; don’t start thinking about this on May 15. It will be too late to do anything if you have a battle.

Graduating with an IEP in Pennsylvania

But second, I have from a reliable source that an email from the State of PA went out to school district superintendents recently (this was 2015), and this is what it says. Keep in mind, this quotes the PA Code, so check your state’s code or laws for what you need.

“It will soon be that time of year when schools throughout the commonwealth will celebrate students’ accomplishments through graduation ceremonies at which high school diplomas are bestowed upon students who have completed their high school graduation requirements.

The opportunity for classmates with disabilities to celebrate these accomplishments with their graduating class may not be prohibited based on their attendance to a different school or plans to continue their special education program beyond the four years.”

A black graduation cap and green tassel on a wooden board, symbolizing the achievement of walking at graduation but not graduating.

Can my child “walk” with the graduating class even though she is not graduating?

In May of 2006, the Pennsylvania Public School Code was amended to include a new provision regarding participation by students with disabilities in high school graduation ceremonies (24 P.S. §16-1614).

The document in full is below; scroll down.

  • (a) For the 2005–06 school year and each school year thereafter, a Board of Directors of a school district, an area vocational-technical school or a charter school shall allow a student with a disability whose individualized education program, as established pursuant to 22 Pa. Code §14.131 (relating to IEP), prescribes continued special education programs beyond the fourth year of high school, to participate in commencement ceremonies with the student’s graduating class and receive a certificate of attendance, provided that the student has attended four (4) years of high school regardless of whether the student has completed the individualized education program.
  • (b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude a student with a disability from receiving a high school diploma when the student satisfactorily completes an individualized education program as required under 22 Pa. Code §14.131. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in complying with this mandated requirement.

So, there you go. The State Code.

I don’t think it gets any clearer than that, and if you have any questions, there is an email to contact someone. Many APSs (Approved Private Schools) and vocational schools also have a year-end ceremony of some type, so if a typical child is allowed to do both ceremonies, so is one with special needs.

If you live in another state, I would contact your state’s Disability Protection and Advocacy organization and ask them.

PA Graduation Requirements

This is only for Pennsylvania. Check your state’s special education regulations for specifics.

A man wearing a graduation cap walking in a stadium.

Walking at Graduation but Not Graduating: What It Means and What to Do

Understanding the Graduation Ceremony

Graduation ceremonies are a significant milestone in a student’s academic journey. It’s a time to celebrate the hard work and dedication that has led to this momentous occasion. However, not all students who attend the graduation ceremony are graduating.

In this section, we will explore the eligibility and participation requirements for the graduation ceremony and the difference between walking at graduation and actual graduation.

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Eligibility and Participation

To participate in the graduation ceremony, students must meet certain eligibility requirements. These requirements vary depending on the institution and program. Generally, students must have completed all the necessary coursework and have met the academic requirements for graduation. Additionally, students may be required to have a minimum GPA and have no outstanding financial obligations to the institution.

It’s important to note that attending the graduation ceremony does not guarantee graduation. Students not meeting the eligibility requirements will not receive their degree or diploma. It’s essential to check with the institution’s registrar’s office to ensure eligibility before attending the graduation ceremony.

A woman in a green graduation gown gazing at the sky.

Walking at Graduation vs. Actual Graduation

Walking at graduation and actual graduation are two different things. Walking at graduation refers to the act of participating in the graduation ceremony, while actual graduation refers to the completion of all academic requirements and the conferral of the degree or diploma.

Students who walk at graduation but have not completed all academic requirements will not receive their degree or diploma. On the other hand, students who have completed all academic requirements but do not attend the graduation ceremony will still receive their degree or diploma.

In conclusion, attending the graduation ceremony is a significant event in a student’s academic journey. However, it’s important to understand the eligibility and participation requirements and the difference between walking at graduation and actual graduation to avoid any confusion or disappointment.

Post-Ceremony Considerations

After walking at graduation but not graduating, there are a few post-ceremony considerations that individuals should keep in mind. These considerations include receiving the actual diploma and continuing education requirements.

Receiving the Actual Diploma

If an individual has walked at graduation but did not meet the graduation requirements, they will not receive their diploma at the ceremony. Instead, they must contact their school’s registrar’s office to find out how to obtain their diploma.

The process for obtaining the diploma may vary depending on the school, so it is important to contact the registrar’s office as soon as possible.

Continuing Education Requirements

If an individual has not met the graduation requirements, they may need to complete additional coursework or requirements to graduate. It is important to meet with an academic advisor or counselor to discuss the specific requirements and develop a plan to meet them.

In addition, individuals who have not graduated may need to consider their options for continuing their education. They may need to retake classes or enroll in additional courses to meet graduation requirements. Alternatively, they may need to consider transferring to a different school or program that better fits their academic goals.

Overall, individuals who have walked at graduation but not graduated should take the time to carefully consider their options and develop a plan to meet their academic goals. By working closely with their school and academic advisors, they can take the necessary steps to complete their degree and achieve their educational aspirations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements for participating in a graduation ceremony?

In order to participate in a graduation ceremony, students typically need to have completed all of their degree requirements and be in good academic standing. This means that they have met all of the necessary credit and GPA requirements and have no outstanding fees or holds on their account.

Can a student participate in commencement ceremonies without completing all their credits?

In some cases, students may be allowed to participate in a graduation ceremony even if they have not yet completed all of their credits. However, this is typically only allowed if the student is very close to completing their degree requirements and has a plan in place to finish their remaining coursework.

What are the consequences of choosing not to attend your own graduation ceremony?

There are no major consequences for choosing not to attend your own graduation ceremony. However, many students find attending the ceremony a meaningful way to celebrate their achievements and mark the end of their academic journey.

How does graduating in absentia work for students unable to attend the ceremony?

If a student is unable to attend their graduation ceremony, they may be able to graduate in absentia. This means that they will still receive their diploma and officially graduate, but they will not be able to participate in the ceremony itself.

What are some common traditions or elements involved in a graduation ceremony?

Graduation ceremonies often include a procession of graduates, speeches from faculty and students, the conferring of degrees, and the awarding of diplomas. Many ceremonies also include the traditional wearing of caps and gowns.

Are there alternative ways to celebrate graduation aside from the official ceremony?

Yes, there are many alternative ways to celebrate graduation besides the official ceremony. Some students have private celebrations with friends and family, while others may attend graduation parties or events hosted by their school or community.

A woman, walking at graduation, is holding her hat in the air.

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