Local News Matters weekly newsletter

Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.

In a letter to the school community, San Leandro Unified School District Superintendent Michael McLaughlin apologized and explained how a group of special education students were mistakenly excluded from aspects of this year’s San Leandro High School graduation ceremony.

Six special ed students were left off the printed program distributed at the June 9 ceremony, and their certificates of completion were not available for pickup on the day after graduation, along with those for other students.

Students in the school’s special day class program within the Special Education Department do not receive official high school diplomas, due to different state requirements. They receive certificates of completion.

McLaughlin blamed the omission of special ed students’ names in the program on a staff clerical error, as the different documents were not stored in the same computer file.

“In our investigation, the district determined there was no review process of the names to verify accuracy before printing,” McLaughlin wrote. “Next year, and moving forward, the district will review the draft program to cross-check for accuracy before printing.”

“I also want to extend a heartfelt public apology for the trauma these errors have caused at such a momentous and celebratory moment in these scholars’ lives. … I take full responsibility for the terrible experience this has caused for them and their children.”

Superintendent Michael McLaughlin

Regarding the missing certificates, McLaughlin said they were ordered at the same time as diplomas. He said they were set aside to be processed separately and subsequently misplaced, which was not discovered until June 6 — three days before graduation.

“Once clerical staff could not locate the certificates, they immediately reordered but did not notify the administration or the affected families of the delay,” McLaughlin wrote. “In our investigation, the district determined the clerical staff acted in good faith with their immediacy in reordering, which allowed for the rapid delivery of new certificates that arrived last Friday (June 17).”

McLaughlin said he has personally apologized to the affected families and the district has taken steps to ensure it won’t happen again.

“I also want to extend a heartfelt public apology for the trauma these errors have caused at such a momentous and celebratory moment in these scholars’ lives,” McLaughlin wrote. “I want our community to know that, as the district superintendent, I take full responsibility for the terrible experience this has caused for them and their children.”

McLaughlin is working with the families to determine “what we as a district can do to repair the harm that has been caused.”

“The considerable challenges these scholars have faced and overcome throughout their educational journey demonstrate the strength of their indomitable spirits and deserve nothing less than our complete attention in celebrating their achievements,” he wrote.