Family of special needs G.P.H.S. student, school district issue separate statements

Grants Pass, Ore. – The following statement was made by the family of Caleb Maler, whose special condition has caused controversy in regards to whether or not he would walk with his classmates during a normal graduation ceremony. A previously released statement made by the Grants Pass School District is below the Maler’s statement.
Media Statement

June 8, 2017

Statement from Nelson and Elizabeth Maler
Parents of Caleb Maler

In light of recent media attention about our son Caleb Maler’s high school graduation, we thought it would be appropriate to share this statement today. Particularly in light of the fact that the school district put out a factually incorrect media statement this morning without our permission and that our family explicitly said they did not have consent to release due to its misinformation. 

Our number one priority is celebrating our son Caleb, and his remarkable accomplishment of graduating from Grants Pass High School with an Extended Diploma. We are proud of him for the work he has done and thankful for the opportunities and education he has received as a student at this school.

Leading up to Caleb’s graduation, the school clearly shared their concerns with our family that Caleb, due to his special condition, may be disruptive to the traditional ceremony and offered two different separate event options.  

Believing that these two alternative options were our only choices, we planned a separate ceremony and have been encouraging and inviting the community to attend and show their support for Caleb so that he would not feel isolated from other students. Our intent was always to get people to attend Caleb’s graduation.  One week ago, we only had one other student walking with Caleb and no one else in the audience, except family. Caleb was walking alone.  Today we now have about a dozen students who will walk with Caleb and approximately 200 people in the audience.  We are deeply moved by the overwhelming support of the community, both locally and throughout the state.

While not our intent, the public and members of the media have voiced their concerns that it was wrong for the school to not extend an invitation to Caleb to participate in the traditional ceremony. Moreover, our intent was never to blame the school district for anything; it was always our intent to get people to attend Caleb’s graduation.  Please know that the family values maintaining a positive working relationship with the School District.

Our desire from day one has been that our son be recognized for his hard work, just like every other student at Grants Pass High School. We appreciate the good relationship we’ve had with the school over the years and the education they have provided, and we hope this situation brings to light the need for greater understanding, better communication, with continued emphasis on the inclusion of students with special needs and their families. 

The option to participate in the traditional ceremony was not granted until yesterday during a meeting with school officials. We never challenged them on the traditional ceremony option in our earlier meetings leading up to Caleb’s graduation as we were trying to honor the school’s position.  Yesterday, the school suggested that we look at all the options; frankly, the private ceremony appealed to us more.

Ultimately, we as a family determined we will continue our plans to host a separate ceremony on Friday, June 9th, 2017 at 5:00 pm and look forward to members of the community attending this celebration with us. While we are uniquely proud of our son for this accomplishment, we congratulate all of the students who will be graduating this Friday.

From the Grants Pass School District (received by NBC5 news at 8:57 Tuesday morning):

Grants Pass School District Press Release

June 8, 2017

Recently, the media has reported that the Grants Pass School District denies students access to traditional graduation ceremonies because of possible student disabilities. The District is unable to comment on any particular students or individual situations because of state and federal privacy laws. However, the district works to accommodate all students so that they may participate in a graduation ceremony that meets their needs and the wishes of the family.

There are a range of graduation ceremony options available to all graduating students, including students with disabilities. Accommodations are made for all students. Ceremony options include participating in the traditional Grants Pass High graduation, the Gladiola Alternative graduation, the GED ceremony, as well as personalized venues if that is what families would like.

The ultimate decision on the graduation ceremony and venue in most cases is up to the student and student’s family.

Given the recent significant media and public attention to this matter, the district has internally verified that all graduation ceremony options have always been available and will continue to be available to all students. The district works collaboratively with all of its families to create celebration ceremonies that honor the achievements of students. The district greatly appreciates the tremendously positive working relationship with our students and their families.

This message is being sent on behalf of Grants Pass School District Administration

If you would like to join in celebrating Caleb, his graduation will be Friday, June 9th at 5 p.m. at Grants Pass High School.  Meet the Maler’s outside the Core Administration building in the Mel Ingram Field. 830 N.E. Ninth Street, Grants Pass.

You can also send a card addressed to Caleb Maler, 1897 Williams Hwy., #209, Grants Pass, OR 97527.

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