EXCLUSIVE: Multiple special education students excluded from San Leandro HS graduation program

Joseph, Jesse and Mario say they were discriminated against due to their disabilities.
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (KGO) -- Multiple special education students at San Leandro High School say they were discriminated against due to their disabilities. Even though they walked in graduation, they were not added to the graduation program and were told their diplomas were not ordered in time.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena spoke to the parents who are demanding for the school district to explain and make changes.

On June 9, Joseph, Jesse and Mario graduated from San Leandro High School -- a day they had been looking forward to for years.

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Luz Pena: "Congrats on graduating."

Joseph Sanchez Munoz: "Thank you."

Luz Pena: "How excited were you to graduate?"

Joseph Sanchez Munoz: "Like super excited."

That excitement quickly shifted after realizing their names were not part of the graduation program for the class of 2022.

"I felt left out. I felt sad," said Joseph Sanchez Munoz.

"Discriminated and sad," said Jesse Haro Belmontes.

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For Munoz and his family, seeing his name on the program with the rest of the high school was a milestone they never thought he would accomplish.

He was born with special needs, is a cancer survivor with liver and kidney transplants. His mom says he is a miracle.

"I live day by day with him. I never know if one of their organs is going to fail and he is going to die and now I'm going to have this memory. The shattered this beautiful memory for us," said Elena Munoz.

For Mario Juarez, walking in graduation was a moment of pride, but his siblings not finding him on the list was hurtful, according to his mom. He is the first of his siblings to graduate high school.

"(Los mismos derechos y el respeto.) You want your son to be treated with respect and to have the same rights as the other students? Correcto," said Marisol Martinez.

These parents went up to the San Leandro High School principal to question why multiple special education students were excluded from the program.

"He told me they treat all the kids the same, but that is not true," said Yesenia Belmontes.

The next day, Joseph woke up at 7 a.m. to clean the frame where he would put his diploma, but they later found out the school excluded them again.

"I said we are here to pick up the certificates and she looked at us and said 'oh we forgot to order the certificates. It's going to be about a month until you guys receive them.'" said Elena Munoz.

On Tuesday, the school gave them programs with their names on them.

In a statement the school said in part:

"We are profoundly sorry that this omission occurred and we are conducting a full review of our graduation processes to ensure that a critical error like this does not occur again in the future."

As part of the apology, San Leandro High School's principal said they will hand deliver the diplomas, but to some of these parents it's too late.

"The special ed kids, unfortunately, for San Leandro High School are forgotten," said Elena Munoz.

Luz Pena: "What do you hope comes out of this?"

Elena Munoz: "I really hope that this will never happen to anybody else."

San Leandro High School's full statement here.

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