Autistic student fights to graduate

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — The family of an autistic high school student is outraged the state Board of Education won't let him graduate next week.
Sinclaire Coffer, 17, is a senior at North Springs Charter High School in Sandy Springs.
"He's a model student," his sister Capri told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik. "Not being able to graduate is an impediment to his dream."
Coffer showed Petchenik paperwork that shows school officials are well aware of his difficulties with math.  His transcripts show he excels in other subjects, including English and history.
"We've gotten a private tutor," his mother said. "He's taken classes that are offered by the school in summer and throughout the school year."
Still, Coffer has failed the state's required math graduation exam five times.
"I've been trying really hard," Coffer told Petchenik. "I passed all of the art ones on the first try, but it's just math that gets me."
Because of his diagnosis, the Coffers requested a special waiver from the Board of Education that would have allowed him to graduate. On Thursday, the board voted to deny his request.
"They're being unfair," he said.

Coffer's mother told Petchenik the board should make an exception because of her son's other successes.

"With the graduation rate so low, they want to hold back a student that is worthy of graduation, and it's just not fair," she said.

State Board of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza could not comment on the Board's decision.

"I can't give you a 'why' answer because, one, it's protected by FERPA Law and two, the state board votes, and all 13 have individual opinions as to why they vote a certain way," he told Petchenik via email.

Cardoze said while the situation is unfortunate, it's not unique. Petchenik checked the state board's web site and found it denied the vast majority of special needs student waivers.

Cardoza said Coffer will have to pass the exam before he can graduate. Graduation is scheduled for May 18.