Judge Sides With School in Graduation Debate

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A local high school senior fights the Prince George's County School System in order to graduate on time. (Published Wednesday, Jun 8, 2011)

    A Maryland teenager has lost her legal battle to walk with her classmates at graduation.

    Shavonte Petty was diagnosed with severe allergies and asthma. Federal law provides that a medical plan be devised that makes concessions to students with disabilities to receive a fair education.

    Shavonte’s disabilities kept her out of class at Oxon Hill High School. Under the medical plan, assignments were sent home. But Prince George’s County Public Schools said she failed English 12 because she didn't complete her assignments.

    Shavonte, her mother Theresa and their lawyer went to court asking a judge to order the school system to let her graduate.

    “The school system discriminated against her,” attorney Diana Wyles said. “They did not provide the services they were supposed to.”

    Although sympathetic, Judge Sean Wallace said he doesn’t have enough evidence to decide that she met school requirements and therefore denied her request, refusing to order the school system to allow her to graduate.

    “It’s going to hurt me to see my peers graduate tomorrow and know that I can’t be there, and I can’t sit at my graduation, something that I deserve, something that I  worked hard for,” Shavonte said.

    “I came up there every day getting her work,” her mother said. “I have a fax machine. Nobody came to our house to give her home schooling. How in the world can you tell me there’s not someone out there who can tell me this young lady deserves to graduate?”

    "She had her day in court,” read a statement from Prince George’s County Schools. “The judge's decision speaks for itself. We cannot compromise the academic integrity of our school system for one student."

    As a result, Shavonte will not be allowed to graduate with classmates from Oxon Hill High School.

    The family is still suing the school system for monetary damages for the scholarships she has lost and pain she’s endured, but they say this was never about money. It was all about trying to get permission for her to graduate with her class.