special grad 072821SPRINGFIELD – Under a new law sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham and State Representative Fran Hurley, special education students will get to graduate with their classmates starting with the 2021-2022 school year.

“We are righting a long-standing wrong by allowing special education students to finish out their final year of school,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “Starting this year, they will get to graduate with their classmates and say proper goodbyes to their friends and teachers.”

Previous Illinois law allowed special education students to remain in school past the typical graduation age of 18, but required them to stop attending classes as soon as they turned 22. The new law, originally House Bill 40, establishes that they can finish out the year they age out of the system.

“Forcing special education students to leave their program in the middle of the school year is highly disruptive and places a difficult burden on their families,” said Hurley, who is also a Chicago Democrat. “Thanks to this new law, those families will have time to plan for an orderly transition in their student’s life.”

Cunningham and State Representative Fran Hurley introduced the measure after they were approached by the parents of a local student who thought it was unfair that their child couldn’t finish school at the same time as students who weren’t in the special education program.

“I encourage local residents to come to us with their problems,” Cunningham said. “We’re here to help.”

The new law takes effect immediately.