Judges Do Not Grade Papers

Judges Do Not Grade Papers

Even helicopter parents have to land some time.  When our kids come home with grades that do not quite measure up, we can kick into “fix it” mode, and try to have the grades changed for the better.  But how far is too far to go, to clean up our children’s transcripts?  One family went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to get the judge to order a change in how their child’s grades were figured.

This court case involved a high school student with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Because of his issues with concentration and focus, his family tried to have a formal plan put in place to help support him in his work at school.  Federal law provides for these plans to help students with disabilities have the proper accommodations made for them in the classroom and with their work.

Some of the measures that are frequently used to support students with learning and focus issues are providing extra time to take tests, not penalizing for missed homework, and providing opportunities for teacher help including notes from classroom lectures.

Whether or not the school agreed that this student had a disability that required them to provide this help, they nonetheless put measures in place anyway to assist his academics.  But the family was not happy, and believed that their son’s grades were lower than they should have been, because he was not being treated as federal law requires a student with a disability to be treated.  He had already graduated from high school at the time the case was heard, but they wanted his grade point average to be changed.

So they sought the help of the legal system.  The filed a lawsuit that asked the court to force the school to recalculate their son’s grades, to reflect the difference in scores they believed their son would have if his work was graded and treated with the accommodations they believed should have been in place.

Their argument was rejected though.  Whether or not the student had a disability that needed support, and whether or not the school had provided proper support, the court said it could not get involved in decisions involving what kind of points may or may not be deducted from a student’s schoolwork.

Imagine the long lines at the courthouse door, if judges got involved in the business of taking the red pen to the homework and test grades of students.  Those judgments are better left to the skill and training of the teachers and school staff, according to the court case.

Federal law can prevent school personnel from discriminating against a student with a disability based on stereotypes, and from acting without proper, reasoned judgment under the circumstances.  But it does not go so far as to tell school teachers and administrators, for example, whether specific point deductions are or are not appropriate for a student’s homework or test.

The courts will step in and stop public schools from discriminating against a student because of his or her disability, and will see that the student is not closed out of an appropriate education.  But judges are not likely to get involved in disputes over individual grades in the process. 

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