GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio – With decorations outside her Garfield Heights home and still glowing from her prom on June 1st, Cache Jackson was getting excited about graduation from JFK 3 Eagle Academy High School, part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School district.
But the 18-year-old recently learned she could no longer be a part of the ceremony.
Jackson said, “I was embarrassed and hurt.”
Cache’s mother Sharon Peterson says that she was informed by the principal that her daughter did not meet all of her graduation requirements for the 2018 school year – specifically for not taking one of two required Ohio State tests.
“I started crying too cuz I’m like wait, what? You met every requirement you were supposed to do, what are they talking about?” said Peterson.
As a special education student with an individualized education plan, or IEP, Peterson says she was told her daughter was exempt from taking the test a second time thus essentially giving her the all-clear to graduate.
Peterson says she talked with the school principal about a conversation she had with an official from the State of Ohio Special Education division.
“I talked with the state and they said this has nothing to do with the state or whatever, as far as they know, she met the requirements and all of that. So then, he in turn says it’s a district matter and the district overrides the state.”
Cache says she paid her senior dues, was fitted for a cap and gown even attended the first graduation ceremony rehearsal, where her name was called for her to walk across the stage. It wasn’t until that second rehearsal last Thursday, that she received the bad news.
Peterson received this letter from the school last weekend, stating her daughter can take the OST exam in July and receive her diploma in the mail in August.
But with the graduation ceremony set for June 21st, the family says it’s an option they simply cannot accept.
“What would the perfect outcome be for you right now? For me to see my daughter and for her to walk across the stage. She worked hard to get there.”
The school district responded to the allegations with the following statement:
CMSD follows consistent guidelines for verifying a student’s eligibility for graduation, and documentation in this case shows district policy was followed.
Allegations of unfair treatment are not substantiated by evidence:
• Records of a student’s academic progress are private and not subject to release. However, a review of the documentation on file does not support the family’s claims that written notification of their daughter’s ineligibility for graduation was separately contradicted by a verbal assurance of her eligibility to graduate.
• The principal refutes the family’s claim that their daughter was pulled from graduation rehearsal on June 5.
• Allegations regarding attendance at IEP meetings, the principal’s alleged absence from the meetings, the student’s exemption from state tests and “pre-signed” meeting forms are also not supported by documentation on file.
• The family’s reference to the IEPs of other students are also unsupported, as those records are private and the same guidelines for graduation eligibility were followed consistently for all students.
The family says they will consider taking legal action if the school doesn’t allow Cache to walk.