News Article Details

Family says joy of graduation ruined for Weymouth student with autism

The Patriot Ledger - 6/12/2019

Jun. 12--WEYMOUTH -- On a day that was supposed to be joyous, a Weymouth mother says her family was left upset, angry and with many unanswered questions after her son, who has autism, was skipped over during graduation ceremonies this past weekend.

Katie Archibald said administrators eventually called her son, Kailan Archibald, up to the stage to collect his diploma, but out of order and only after his family complained to a staff member, who told them Kailan may have been singled out over concerns about how he would handle the long ceremony. Weymouth school officials now plan to meet with the family to discuss the incident, but Katie Archibald said the damage was done.

"It's like a slap in the face and it's disrespectful to him and my family," she said. "He sat out in the hot sun like every other student, and should have received the same treatment as every other student."

Katie Archibald said her son had attended a graduation practice run earlier in the week, received his cap and gown and learned he would be sitting with his paraprofessional, who would escort him out if the ceremony got too long for him to sit through.

Kailan Archibald's name appeared 12th in the program for Saturday's graduation, but Katie Archibald said the administrator reading off the names skipped over her son, who was one of a few special needs students from the school's life skills program who graduated Saturday.

Archibald said her husband immediately went to inform a school staff member that Kailan was skipped, and he was told they would get to him eventually.

Katie Archibald said Kailan was called near the end of the alphabet, and by then, she was too upset to fully appreciate seeing her son walk across the stage to get his diploma. Archibald said the other student from the life skills program was also called out of order, and it seems odd that they were the only two of 401 graduates.

"It shouldn't have happened. They show up and go to school just like every other child," she said.

Superintendent Jennifer Curtis-Whipple said in an email Tuesday that she couldn't comment in any detail on the allegations other than to say Archibald did graduate and participate in the graduation ceremonies. She said administrators are scheduling a meeting with the family to discuss their concerns.

"As always I cannot share confidential student information, but please know we always take all parent concerns seriously," Curtis-Whipple said.

Katie Archibald said her family was told by a staff member that Kailan may have been skipped because administrators weren't sure if he would be able to sit through the ceremony. But if that was the case, Archibald said her son should have been called 12th, as he was supposed to, so that he could leave later, if necessary.

"If my son wasn't capable, he wouldn't have been able to go up and get his diploma. He knows his name and he's verbal," she said.

While it's too late to change what happened to Kailan, Archibald said she hopes the district takes better care going forward to ensure this doesn't happen to another special needs student.

"It's bad enough that special needs students have to go out and face discrimination, but to have a school district that they've been a part of for this long to treat them this way, in this day and age, it's unacceptable," she said.

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