Anguished Mom Shares Video Of Kindergarten Graduation Where All Kids Got Gold Crowns Except 3 Special Needs Students

Her son was devastated that he didn't get a gold crown like the other kids.

special needs child treated differently at kindergarten graduation TikTok

Graduating from Kindergarten is an important accomplishment for kids. To celebrate this accomplishment, a Philadelphia school gifted Kindergarten students golden crowns when they walked across the stage at their graduation ceremony — all of the students but three, that is.

The three special needs students in the class were gifted different crowns than the rest of the students.

Cristina Santos, mother of Leonardo Santos, one of the special needs students at the school, turned to TikTok to share her anguish regarding the treatment of her son. Santos uploaded a video of her son graduating and receiving a paper crown. According to Sanstos, the other students in the class were given gold crowns.




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Santos stated that she was “scared, nervous, and in shock” about the treatment of her son at his graduation. She even admitted that she was unsure if she had a right to speak up about the situation at all. 


The graduation ceremony was orchestrated by the faculty member shown presenting the crowns in the graduation video. They were the one person who paid for the crowns, and they did not speak to Santos about the situation.

Santos’ son asked his mom if the other kids were better than him because they got gold crowns.

Author and “profound-autism mom” Julie Skolnik made a video reacting to Santos’ situation. In her TikTok, she describes Santos’ situation as” heartbreaking,” and rightfully so. Skolnik explained the conversation she had with Santos and asked Santos what her son said to her after the ceremony. 

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Skolnik said that she is heartbroken for Santos and her son and that something needs to be done about the situation.


Users in the comments agreed wholeheartedly. One user called for the teacher who orchestrated the graduation to be fired. Another user suggested that Santos speak to the superintendent of the school district.  They were infuriated at the situation along with Santos, validating her right to feel in shock and outraged about the treatment of her son. One user commented that “those teachers should be ashamed of themselves.” Another user posted that she was a special needs teacher and that would never happen where she taught.

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Almost everyone in the comments believed that someone should be held accountable.

The sad reality is that special needs students often receive separate and unequal education from other students. They can be sent to special schools for children with “emotional and behavioral disorders,” where the education isn't comparable to that of public schools.

Discrimination against special needs students is harmful and as we have seen from Santos’ situation, it is even happening in schools that are integrated with special needs kids. Santos’s son is lucky to have a supportive mom that wants to make him feel loved and included.


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Santos uploaded a follow-up video showing Leo finally getting his gold crown.

Santos made a video with an update showing her son opening a package of the same gold crown that the other kids got at the graduation. He looked so happy when he saw that he got his crown, a huge smile spread across his face. 



Her son exclaimed “I am the king of my life! I look so pretty and I look so handsome!” when he put the crown on his head.


special needs child treated differently at kindergarted graduationPhoto: TikTok

Everyone in the comments is so happy that Santos’ son finally got his crown. One user writes “I am so happy he got his golden crown! You deserve it, King Leo!” It was incredibly heartwarming to see other users give so much support to Santos’ son and to see him so happy that he finally got his crown. All hail King Leo!

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Tarah Hickel is a Washington-based writer and a frequent contributor to YourTango. She focuses on entertainmnet and news including viral topics and pop culture.