Parents Have Rights in Special Education Laws
Your child deserves the best education possible. Without it, their potential may remain unrealized. When a child has a disability of any kind, parents must be especially vigilant in ensuring their child has access to programs and classes that help to move them forward.
A free appropriate public education (FAPE) is part of a landmark law that guarantees children receive an education tailored to their specific needs. Our attorneys at Scaringi Law are committed to ensuring the rights of all Pennsylvania children are met as mandated by federal law.
What Is FAPE?
Federal law Title 34 mandates a “free appropriate public education” be available to all children between the ages of 3 and 21 in the United States. This guarantee includes children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school.
The laws surrounding education and disability are complicated. FAPE is further explained in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act:
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): In addition to FAPE, children with disabilities should learn side by side with their peers as much as possible. This is called the least restricted environment (LRE). Schools evaluate children for disabilities at no cost to the parents. Qualifying students are offered education and related services (speech therapy, therapeutic recreation, and more) through an individualized education program (IEP).
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act: This civil rights law bans discrimination based on disability. Section 504 of the law gives disabled students the right to reasonable accommodations. A 504 plan removes barriers to learning. Examples of accommodations include extra time to complete assignments and access to audiobooks. The plan is also provided at no cost to parents.
Most children qualify for either an IEP or a 504 plan. If the child is eligible for both, the 504 accommodations can be included in the IEP, eliminating the need for separate plans.
If appropriate services and support can’t be provided in a public school, a child with disabilities may attend private school at no cost to the parents. Parents would be responsible for paying for extra school programs like sports or clubs, just like they would in a public school.
What Isn’t Covered by FAPE?
FAPE provides broad protections, but there are limitations. While parental input is important, a school doesn’t have to provide a specific class setting based on what a parent wants. FAPE does not mandate that students with disabilities be given preferential treatment nor be guaranteed a position on school teams. Terms like “best” and “maximize” are impossible to quantify and won’t be included in an IEP or 504.
What Actions Can Parents Take to Ensure FAPE?
FAPE guarantees that a child has a right to a free and appropriate public education, regardless of the severity of their disability. If your child is denied this right, you can advocate for all the services to which they are entitled.
Steps you can take include the following:
- Request your child be evaluated for special education (you can also pay for a private evaluation).
- Participate in the IEP eligibility meeting.
- You can ask for an IEP meeting at any time to discuss your child’s progress.
- If the IEP process isn’t working, you can ask for mediation.
- You can ask for a due process hearing, a formal way to resolve complaints under IDEA.
- You can sue for services you had to pay for that the public school failed to provide.
Legal Counsel for Your Child’s Educational Rights
IEP and 504 processes can seem like an uphill battle. We want you to know you are not alone. At Scaringi Law, our attorneys can decode the central issues in your child’s case. We can help you understand the IEP or 504 and then fight for needed changes. If the school violates the IEP, we will stand for you before the school district. Your voice won’t be silenced.
If you believe your child is not receiving fair appropriate public education, contact us for a free initial consultation. You can describe how the school is failing your child, and we can offer potential remedies. Schedule today by calling (717) 775-7195.