Act 303 gives former students chance at high school diploma

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Photo by Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | Willie Johnson, a 39-year-old former Airline student and a member of the Class of 1998, was the first in the state to petition the school district for his long overdue high school diploma under Act 303, enacted earlier this year in the Louisiana Legislature. He formally handed over his petition to Bossier Schools Superintendent Scott Smith on Aug. 19, 2016.

Willie Johnson, a 39-year-old former Bossier Parish student, and hundreds more who were identified with a disability that have since exited the school system, have the extraordinary opportunity to retroactively receive their high school diploma.

Act 303, enacted this year by the Louisiana Legislature, provides individuals with disabilities the chance to petition their local school system if they were denied a high school diploma and chance to graduate solely for failing to meet state graduation exit exam requirements.

Bossier Schools is especially pleased to be the pilot district for the implementation of Act 303. To date, the district has identified nearly 300 students who may be eligible to receive their diplomas. Johnson is one of those individuals.

Although he completed 12th grade at Airline High School, his mother said not having a diploma has impacted the job opportunities available to her son.

Not only will Johnson and others receive their high school diplomas, but Bossier Schools is planning a graduation ceremony for Sunday, January 15, 2017 at Bossier Instructional Center, enabling former students to be handed their diploma on stage by Superintendent Scott Smith.

Students identified with special needs that previously attended Bossier Schools will be eligible to retroactively receive a diploma if the Special Education department can confirm the student:

-was identified as having a disability under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP); and
-earned all required Carnegie Units and met other high school requirements; but
-was denied a diploma solely for failing to meet the exit examination requirements.

“As we went down the list, I recognized so many former students now eligible,” said Dr. Nichole Bourgeois, Bossier Schools Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum. “It really tugs at our heartstrings and the district is elated to be able to go back and do what is right by providing these students the diplomas they worked so hard for but did not receive.”

Those who believe they meet these requirements and should receive a diploma under Louisiana Act 303 must petition their local school board by December 31, 2017.

Former Bossier Parish students may call the Special Education department at (318) 549-6137 or (318) 549-6119 to receive the necessary documents to apply for a diploma.