BLOG: Special Education Students Turning 21 in 2021 Entitled to Another School Year

Posted on June 22, 2021

Nina Peckman, Staff Attorney
Nina Peckman, Staff Attorney

According to New Jersey regulations, students with disabilities have the right to be in school until they turn 21 years old. Parents always had the right to advocate for their child to remain in school beyond 18 years old or a proposed graduation date in order to request additional or compensatory education.

Last week, Governor Murphy signed a law that authorizes school districts to permit students who turn 21 in the 2021 school year and who are receiving special education services to receive an additional year of special education and related services if the parent and the individualized education program (IEP) team determine that the student requires them, including transition services. The additional learning will be applicable for the next two school years.

Requesting the extension of services:
Those who believe that their child may be eligible for the extended services should:

  • write to their school district director of special education and school principal stating that you do not want your child to graduate, and
  • state that as S3434 was signed into law by Governor Murphy, they are requesting an IEP meeting to discuss the reasons why their child should remain in school for an additional year, and what services will be offered.

If the school district indicated that they are sending a diploma, the parent should write to the school's principal and director of special education stating that the diploma will not be accepted. If the child has already received a diploma, but the parent would like the child to receive an extra year of schooling, the diploma should be returned with a letter explaining that the parent is seeking an IEP meeting to discuss the child's right to remain in school an additional year.  

The letter to the school district advocating for another year of special education services should be sent with a certified mail receipt. It should include a statement that the parent intends to file for due process and request stay-put, the legal right of a special education student to remain in the last agreed-upon IEP placement during the due process litigation. In order to get this automatic stay-put, the parent must file for mediation or due process.

Since the child has a right to participate in graduation ceremonies and end-of-year celebrations with their peers without receiving a diploma, the parent should make that clear in their letter to the school district that they wish for the child to participate in graduation ceremonies but not receive the diploma.  

If the school district refuses to schedule an IEP meeting, asserts that S3434 does not apply or that the child is not entitled to stay-put, the parent will have to file for due process and ask for emergent relief. While it is preferable to file for due process prior to graduation, the parent may file for due process and request stay-put after graduation. 

For any questions regarding the foregoing or if the school district says that the child is not entitled to the additional year of school, contact Nina Peckman, Staff Attorney, at (973) 643-3876, ext. 226 or for further assistance.