Special needs diploma could become available in SC - DatelineCarolina

Special needs diploma could become available in SC

Sen. John Scott believes this bill will help those with special needs have equal opportunities. Sen. John Scott believes this bill will help those with special needs have equal opportunities.
Karen Pettus helped write the bill with hopes it can help children with special needs further their education after high school. Karen Pettus helped write the bill with hopes it can help children with special needs further their education after high school.
Next High School's mission is to prepare young people for life (after school). Next High School's mission is to prepare young people for life (after school).

By Emily Huff

Special needs students in Georgia can get a special high school diploma in place of an attendance certificate, but not in South Carolina. The Palmetto State is working its way toward having a bill to provide a similar document.

Rebecca Fite is a single mom with two sons. Her oldest, Christopher, is 13 and has been diagnosed with ADHD Broad Spectrum, dysgraphia and processing sensory disorder. This creates a situation public schools can not deal with, so Christopher attends school at Einstein Academy in Greenville. This fall he will start his freshman year at Next High School. Both Einstein and Next are designed for children with special needs.

Fite hopes the special diploma can give kids with special needs more options after high school.

"If the special diploma can carry enough weight to allow these kids the opportunity to go to trade school or maybe junior college and maybe figure out their best method on how to continue their education or to get into the job market, then I think it's a good thing," Fite said. "Because a certificate of attendance doesn't say anything other than you came to class everyday."

The South Carolina Senate is considering a law changing this by offering students with special needs their own special diploma rather than an attendance certificate. Senator John Scott is ready to see change and says this bill could be a step in the right direction.

"We mentally have separated that group from the population, that is unfair," Scott said. "And what we want to do is give them every opportunity to live a healthy and productive life."

Karen Pettus is the Director for the University of South Carolina's Disabilities Services and says this is exactly what the bill is aiming for.

"We felt like there needed to be something for those students that recognized their accomplishments and shows what skills they had developed," Pettus said.

Fite hopes this new diploma will help kids like Christopher get a sense of accomplishment against something they face everyday.

"It may allow them to progress into something where they feel like they are completing a part of their lives," Fite said. "Who wants to grow up and feel like they never finished anything?"

Senator Scott's bill has a long way to go, but hopes it will be a law soon enough to help students like Christopher Fite feel a sense of achievement. Senator Scott hopes to mirror Georgia's bill for children with special needs to help further their education after high school.

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