Californian wants to give back diploma, redo work

AP News
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Posted: Sep 12, 2014 4:58 PM

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California high school graduate has filed a federal lawsuit asking that her diploma be invalidated so she can redo part of her senior year.

Crystal Morales was a senior in 2011 when she was struck by a drunken driver and suffered a traumatic brain injury. She returned to Newport Harbor High School about three months later.

School district officials say in court papers filed in response to the lawsuit that Crystal's mother wanted her to be in the classroom with her friends rather than be on disability and have one-on-one tutoring. Crystal's suit contends that's when the district did things such as turn the D she had in math before the wreck into an A-plus afterward.

In an English class, the suit says she was given a book to read and told to complete a report on it, but teachers never required her to turn in the assignment.

"She was allowed to just skip on through, and she wasn't held responsible for any of that," said Gloria Morales, Crystal's mother.

Morales told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1pXxqZm ) that she didn't understand how much education her daughter would miss.

"They said, 'Guess what? You're graduated, bye. We don't want to see you anymore,'" said Tania Whiteleather, representing Crystal Morales in the lawsuit filed in Orange County in May.

"It's all about getting her back to where she left off," Gloria Morales said, "giving her the opportunity to pick up where she left off."

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District says Morales legitimately completed her work and it was her mother who pushed for graduation with her classmates.

"(Morales') mother was adamant that she wanted (Morales) to graduate with a high school diploma, and did not want (Morales) assessed for special education," the district said in court papers filed in response to the lawsuit.

In court papers, the district said Morales never objected when grades were sent home soon after the semester.

"Knowing what I know now, I would have never returned her to campus for the reason that we did," Gloria Morales said.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com