Deferral of the High School Diploma

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) specifies that a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) must be available to all students with disabilities who have not reached age 22 and who have not earned a standard diploma. If a student graduates with a special diploma, a certificate of completion, a special certificate of completion, or GED and has not reached age 22, the school district must make FAPE available to the student (at the student's option) until the student's 22nd birthday or until he or she earns a standard diploma.

Who can defer receipt of their standard diploma?

  • Only a student whose Individualized Education Plan (IEP) requires special education, transition planning, transition services or related services may defer receipt of their standard diploma.

  • Only a student who is eligible to graduate can defer.

Once a student defers they must be enrolled in accelerated college credit instruction, industry certification courses that lead to college credit, a collegiate high school program, courses necessary to satisfy the Scholar designation requirements or a structured work-study, internship or pre-apprenticeship program in order to continue to receive FAPE (s. 1003.4282(10)(c), F.S.).

A structured work-study program is any program that designed to prepare the student for employment. Programs would normally include instruction in

  • basic employment competencies

  • social skills

  • job search skills


The parent and student are informed in writing by January 30 of the year in which the student is expected to meet all graduation requirements that failure to defer releases the school district of the obligation to provide FAPE, that the deadline for acceptance or deferral is May 15, and that failure to attend the graduation ceremony does NOT constitute deferral.

Deferral decisions must be documented on the child's IEP.

For additional information please see: Technical Assistance Paper High School Graduation Options for Students With Disabilities 04/2016

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