Samuel Morton Fergus, a Special education student at Virgin Valley High School, graduates with his peers and walks the stage during the commencement ceremony which was held at Virgin Valley High School on June 4, 2015.
John Roesch, a special education teacher at Virgin Valley High School, says that Sammy, while graduating with his class, will still be with the VVHS special education program until the day before his 22nd birthday.
Fergus had completed his academic curriculum, which was necessary for him to graduate high school, so the continuing education program for Fergus at VVHS will now focus on more functional life skills so that Fergus will be prepared to succeed in life despite the challenges he will face. When Fergus turns 22 he will graduate to the Green Willow School located at the community college campus.
Roesch began teaching the special education program at VVHS for 12 years and was thrilled to walk the stage beside his prize student Sammy. Roesch said when he began with the program the special education students weren’t able to graduate with their peers. It was only 8 or 9 years ago that the educational system and laws such as Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act took a more aggressive stance to special education, had a change of thought and realized it was a value to the students and their families that they, regardless of their special needs, be allowed to walk that stage and receive their high school diplomas the same way children without special needs are able to.
IDEA which was reauthorized in 1990 was previously known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Before the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was created in 1975, U.S. public schools accommodated only 1 out of 5 children with disabilities.
Until 1975, many school districts had laws that explicitly excluded children with various types of disabilities. Children who were blind, deaf or considered “emotionally disturbed” or mentally retarded were destined to live in institutions where they received little to no education and no rehabilitative services. Less severely challenged children who were able to attend school were segregated from the general population of students.
Most of IDEA’s law remains unchanged since the original enactment in the 1970’s but as of late lawmakers have amended these laws to allow for the changes that were necessary for these students to not only grow academically but socially as well and share in the experience of their peers in many areas of education including the commencement ceremonies.
The overall goal of IDEA is to provide children with disabilities the same opportunity for education as those students who do not have a disability.
The first student to benefit from this progressive action and walk the stage with her peers at VVHS was Maribel Luna who is now a student at Green Willow and while Fergus still has a few years at VVHS will no doubt thrive at Green Willow just as Maribel does because of the commitment of IDEA and VVHS teachers such as Roesch.
Samuels’s mother, Debbie Fergus says, “It was a very joyful experience to watch our son walk that stage. We are very grateful to Mr. Roesch and all his Special Ed teachers throughout all his school years who have had such a positive attitude and great patience with Sammy and helped him to exceed to where he is today. I also thought it added a special touch to see Mr. Roesch walk that stage with him. We are very honored in all he has invested in Sammy this year and for giving him the opportunity to walk that stage. When Sammy first began school, although we didn’t know then what his outcome would be as far as actually graduating High School, we always knew he had just as much of an opportunity as any other child. And we would like to add to that God’s hand was upon him every step of the way. I would also like to thank our church family at Living Waters, the pastors and the youth leaders for their support as well. ”
Congratulations Sammy Fergus Virgin Valley High School’s Special Education graduate of 2015 from the Mesquite Local News.