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Maura McInerney, Esq. Education Law Center www.elc-pa.org Your Child’s Rights: Legal Rights of Children with Disabilities Who Are Home Schooled or Placed.

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Presentation on theme: "Maura McInerney, Esq. Education Law Center www.elc-pa.org Your Child’s Rights: Legal Rights of Children with Disabilities Who Are Home Schooled or Placed."— Presentation transcript:

1 Maura McInerney, Esq. Education Law Center Your Child’s Rights: Legal Rights of Children with Disabilities Who Are Home Schooled or Placed by Parents in Charter, Cyber Charter, Parochial and Private Schools

2 School-Age Children With Disabilities Educated in Non- traditional Settings  Charter Schools, Cyber Charter Schools = Public School  Home Schooled  Placed by Parent in Parochial/Private School Issues Considered:  Admissions/Enrollment  Right To Request Initial Evaluation & Content of Eval.  Right to a Free Appropriate Public Education  Type of Plan or Services Required to be Provided  Right to Inclusion  Protection in School Discipline & Transportation  Dispute Resolution TODAY’S TRAINING Education Law Center, PA2

3 A charter school is an independent public school established and operated under a charter from a local school board. 22 Pa. Code 1703-A (Emphasis added) CHARTER & CYBER CHARTER SCHOOLS Education Law Center, PA 3

4 Charter schools are created and guided by PA’s Charter School Law, 24 P.S.§ A et seq. (1997)  The legislative intent of the law was to:  Improve learning  Innovate teaching methods  Create professional opportunities and responsibilities  Provide expanded options for parents in public education  Increase accountability  Charter schools cannot:  Unlawfully discriminate in admissions, hiring or operation  Be sectarian in any operations  Provide religious instruction or display religious objects or symbols on school premises  Advocate unlawful behavior PENNSYLVANIA’S CHARTER LAW Education Law Center, PA 4

5  42 states and the District of Columbia have laws authorizing charter schools.  Only Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia have no charter school law. THE NATIONAL LANDSCAPE Source: Education Law Center, PA 5

6 WHERE ARE THE CHARTER SCHOOLS IN PENNSYLVANIA?  88 charters 20 charters  10 charters  5-9 charters  1-4 charters  0 charters Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education Charter School Directory. Map created using Education Law Center, PA 6

7  108,942 students in Pennsylvania were enrolled in charter schools in October  Of those students, approximately 34,000 were in cyber charter programs. WHO IS ATTENDING CHARTER SCHOOLS IN PA? Education Law Center, PA 7

8 STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES ENROLLED IN CHARTER SCHOOLS CountyDistrictCharter % Special Education % Both Special Education and SLD/SLI % Special Education % Both Special Education and SLD/SLI Philadelphia14%65%12%86% Chester15%67%14%68% Beaver14%68%10%66% Allegheny16%60%18%68% Montgomery16%68%13%63% Cumberland15%61%17%65% Delaware18%70%25%91% Pennsylvania Charter and School District Special Education Enrollments (2009) Data from: Bruce Baker, Parsing Charter School Disability Enrollments in PA and NJ, School Finance 101. Aug. 23, charter-school-disability-enrollments-in-pa-and-nj/ Education Law Center, PA 8

9 An independent public school established and operated under a charter from the PDE and in which the school uses technology in order to provide a significant portion of its curriculum and deliver a significant portion of instruction to its students online or through other electronic means. A cyber charter school must be organized as a public, nonprofit corporation. WHAT IS A CYBER CHARTER SCHOOL? Education Law Center, PA 9

10  Typically, students enrolled in a cyber charter school are educated in their homes with a computer provided by the school.  Any student in Pennsylvania is eligible to attend a cyber charter school.  The charter is issued by PDE, rather than a local school board. CYBER CHARTER SCHOOLS Education Law Center, PA 10

11  There are currently 16 cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania.  In , students from 498 school districts were enrolled in cyber charter programs.  34,694 students attended PA cyber charter schools in  Just over 5,000 of those cyber charter students were students with disabilities WHO IS ATTENDING CYBER CHARTER SCHOOLS IN PA? Education Law Center, PA 11

12 STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES AND CHARTER SCHOOLS  Charter schools in Pennsylvania are educating an equitable share of children with disabilities overall  But most students with disabilities in charter schools have either speech/language impairment (SLI) or a specific learning disability (SLD) (more “mild” disabilities).  Charters serve a very small number of students with complex support needs Education Law Center, PA 12

13 Charter schools’ legal mandates require all charter schools to:  Comply with all federal laws, policies and case law relevant to public schools  Comply with the Charter School Law, and other PA laws and policies specific to charter schools  Comply with all other state laws and policies applicable to charter schools  Set forth in the charter meaningful strategies for parent and community involvement and accountability  Provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction per year  Participate in the PA State Assessment system in the manner in which the school district where the charter is located is scheduled to participate LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FOR PA CHARTER SCHOOLS Education Law Center, PA 13

14 BARRIERS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES  Some charter schools may discourage parents of students with disabilities from applying.  Some charters may suggest that they are not equipped to meet the needs of students with disabilities, leading parents to be concerned the schools are not able to meet their children’s needs.  All charter schools are schools of choice; parents may choose to withdraw their child if their special education needs are not being met.  Some charter schools enforce strict discipline codes, and students with disabilities may be more likely to be suspended or expelled. Education Law Center, PA 14

15  Admissions  Applications and documents  Criteria  Concentration and grade levels  Timelines and deadlines  Provision of special education supports and services  Counseling regarding “availability”  Costs and expenses  Least restrictive environment (LRE) mandate BARRIERS AND OBSTACLES FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES Education Law Center, PA 15

16  Children are sent to cybers when the district fails to meet or ignores the needs of a student’s disability  Quality of education  Currently, there is no high quality research to prove that full-time virtual school is an adequate replacement for traditional face-to-face teaching (Note: Cyber “AYP” rates)  The students who attend cyber schools for a short period of time and return to their neighborhood schools are often further behind other students  There is currently only anecdotal evidence to support the idea that cyber charter schools are appropriate for at-risk students EMERGING ISSUES REGARDING CYBERS Education Law Center, PA 16

17  Children may be sent to “cyber programs” within a school district.  This may be offered as an educational placement or in response to school discipline issues.  These programs are NOT independently monitored or reviewed nor is disaggregated data collected regarding student achievement.  Raises “change in placement” issues  Quality of education – same concerns EMERGING ISSUES REGARDING CYBERS Education Law Center, PA 17

18  Charter schools cannot discriminate against a student for admission based on intellectual ability or disability.  Students with disabilities enrolled in charter schools are entitled to all of the same rights as non-disabled peers.  Students with disabilities retain ALL federal rights and protections guaranteed by federal disability laws (e.g., IDEA, 504 and ADA) & certain rights under Chapter 14. LEGAL PROTECTIONS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES Education Law Center, PA 18

19 Charter schools are subject to all federal education and civil rights laws, and relevant federal case law, including:  Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504)  Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title 6)  Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title 9)  McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act (McKinney- Vento)  No Child Left Behind  Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) FEDERAL LAWS APPLY Education Law Center, PA 19

20  All students with disabilities enrolled in a charter school are entitled to all the rights and protections of the IDEA.  These include:  Free multidisciplinary evaluations  Eligibility determinations  Individualized program development (IEP)  Inclusion in the “least restrictive environment” (LRE)  Procedural safeguards and due process INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT (IDEA) Education Law Center, PA 20

21  Chapter 14 of state public education regulations, which details public schools’ legal responsibilities to students with disabilities, does not apply to charter schools.  There is a special set of regulations in Chapter 711 which deals specifically with charter schools and students with disabilities. (22 Pa. Code§711) Chapter 711:  Specifies how Pennsylvania charter schools will comply with federal disability laws, including the IDEA and Section 504  Mostly incorporates federal regulations into state regulations  Also requires that all special education teachers be state certified, notwithstanding the charter school law, which requires that only 75% of charter school teachers be state certified PA REGULATIONS FOR CHARTERS AND STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES Education Law Center, PA 21

22  Charter schools must comply with Section 504.  Charter schools are prohibited from discriminating against students on the basis of disability.  Students with disabilities may not be excluded from participation in some activity OR treated differently due to disability. 504 PROTECTIONS Education Law Center, PA 22

23  All resident students in Pennsylvania are eligible to attend a charter school  Charters cannot discriminate in admissions policies or practices on the basis of:  Intellectual ability  Athletic ability  Measures of achievement or aptitude  Status as a person with a disability  Proficiency in English  Any other basis that would be illegal if used by a school district CHARTER SCHOOL ADMISSIONS Education Law Center, PA 23

24 Pennsylvania law mandates that charter schools, like school districts, immediately enroll eligible students upon the presentation of four documents (four in the door): 1.Proof of the child’s age 2.Proof of immunizations required by law 3.Proof of residency 4.Statement of parent regarding any current school exclusion for weapons offense ENROLLMENT LAWS APPLICABLE TO CHARTER SCHOOLS Education Law Center, PA 24

25  The school’s charter must set forth its admission criteria  Charter schools can limit admission:  To a particular grade level  To an area of concentration (e.g. science or the arts)  By establishing reasonable criteria to evaluate prospective students re area of concentration. ADMISSIONS (CONT.) Education Law Center, PA 25

26  Charter schools can admit with first preference:  Students who reside in the district where the charter school is authorized  Children whose parents who have been actively engaged in development of the school  Siblings of enrolled students  Otherwise, charter schools must admit students selected at random from a pool of candidates who meet the charters’ legally established criteria (e.g., lottery)  Charters can enroll, if space permits, nonresident students WHEN THERE ARE MORE APPLICANTS THAN SPACES Education Law Center, PA 26

27 Charter schools are subject to all federal education and civil rights laws, and relevant federal case law, including:  Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504)  Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title 6)  Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title 9)  McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act (McKinney- Vento)  No Child Left Behind  Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) FEDERAL LAWS APPLY Education Law Center, PA 27

28  All students with disabilities enrolled in a charter school are entitled to all the rights and protections of the IDEA.  These include:  Free multidisciplinary evaluations  Eligibility determinations  Individualized program development (IEP)  Inclusion in the “least restrictive environment” (LRE)  Procedural safeguards and due process INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT (IDEA) Education Law Center, PA 28

29  Chapter 14 of state public education regulations, which details public schools’ legal responsibilities to students with disabilities, does not apply to charter schools.  There is a special set of regulations in Chapter 711 which deals specifically with charter schools and students with disabilities. (22 Pa. Code§711) Chapter 711:  Specifies how Pennsylvania charter schools will comply with federal disability laws, including the IDEA and Section 504  Mostly incorporates federal regulations into state regulations  Also requires that all special education teachers be state certified, notwithstanding the charter school law, which requires that only 75% of charter school teachers be state certified PA REGULATIONS FOR CHARTERS AND STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES Education Law Center, PA 29

30  Charters schools are responsible for conducting evaluations to determine if an enrolled student is eligible for special education supports and services.  When a parent requests an evaluation of a student enrolled in a charter school, the charter school must conduct the evaluation and give parents a written Evaluation Report within 60 calendar days (excluding the summer months) from the date the parent agrees to an evaluation in writing.  Charter schools must have a system for screening children to determine whether they should be referred for a special education evaluation. CHARTER SCHOOLS: RIGHT TO AN EVALUATION Education Law Center, PA 30

31  Parent MUST make request in writing. If request is oral, school district MUST present parent with “Permission to Evaluate/Evaluation” (PTE) Request form within 10 calendar days of oral request.  Parent MUST sign Permission to Evaluate/Consent form to trigger school’s duty to perform initial evaluation.  Parent has a right to refuse proposed evaluation  If a parent believes an evaluation by charter school is deficient, parent may request independent evaluation (IEE) and challenge school’s decision to deny such a request.  Right to re-evaluation every three years or, in the case of a child with an intellectual disability, every two years. RIGHTS OF PARENTS IN EVALUATION PROCESS Education Law Center, PA 31

32 Parents of students with disabilities have a number of procedural safeguards, including:  Opportunity to meaningfully participate in the evaluation process & development of their child’s IEP  Prior written notice (PWN) of any change to their child’s IEP  Opportunity to appeal when they don’t agree with the school district about their child’s IEP RIGHT TO PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS Education Law Center, PA 32

33 If a student is found eligible for special education:  The IEP team must meet within 30 calendar days after the evaluation report is completed.  The IEP team must include the “parent,” at least one regular education teacher of the child, one special education teacher of the child, an administrator, and the child (when appropriate)  Parent may bring other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise about the child  The IEP team must review the IEP at least once every year.  Parents or the school may request an IEP team meeting at any time. RIGHT TO A FREE, APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION (FAPE) Education Law Center, PA 33

34  An IEP is a written statement for a child with a disability, which outlines the child’s special education program and related services.  The IEP must be tailored to meet the child’s unique needs.  If a service is listed on a child’s IEP, the child must receive it.  Child must receive “specially designed instruction”, modifications, support services, transition plan etc.  Child must make progress. TYPE OF PLAN/SERVICES Education Law Center, PA 34

35  Caseload Requirement: Each student with a disability must be assigned to a special education teacher’s caseload. 22 PA Code§ No such requirement in charter schools Age Range: The maximum age range in specialized settings shall be 3 years in elementary school (grades K— 6) & 4 years in secondary school (grades 7—12). A student with a disability may not be placed in a class in which the chronological age from the youngest to the oldest student exceeds these limits unless an exception is determined to be appropriate by the IEP team of that student and is justified in the IEP. 22 PA Code § No such requirement in charter schools CHARTER SCHOOL: IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES Education Law Center, PA 35

36 State due process laws for suspension/expulsion of pupils  Expulsions require a formal hearing  Suspensions require only an informal hearing  A charter school may not expel or suspend students for failure to meet the charter school’s academic requirements.  ALL IDEA protections apply – e.g., right to manifestation determination, etc.  CANNOT be disciplined due to disability PROTECTION IN SCHOOL DISCIPLINE Education Law Center, PA 36

37  To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities should be educated with their non-disabled peers. Removal from the regular education classroom should occur only when the nature or severity of the child’s disability is such that education in regular education classes (with the use of supplementary aids and services) cannot be achieved satisfactorily.  The IDEA requires that each LEA offer a full continuum of placements for students. RIGHT TO INCLUSION: LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT (LRE) Education Law Center, PA 37

38  Students with disabilities are entitled to free and appropriate transportation when necessary to attend their special education program.  When it is needed, the type and amount of transportation must be included in the IEP as a related service. RIGHT TO TRANSPORTATION Education Law Center, PA 38

39  If parents disagree with the IEP or with any other proposal or refusal of the school district or charter/cyber charter relating to the child’s special education program, they can agree to mediate or request a formal due process hearing. Parents or anyone else acting on behalf of a child can also file a complaint with the Department of Education alleging a violation of the special education laws such as not providing the child with all of the services listed on the IEP. RIGHTS IN DISPUTE RESOLUTION Education Law Center, PA 39

40 CASE STUDY EXAMPLES 40 Education Law Center, PA

41 LEGAL CHALLENGES: P.D. V. PASTOREK (E.D. NEW ORLEANS)  In 2010, Southern Poverty Law Center filed an administrative complaint & federal lawsuit on behalf of thousands of students with disabilities alleging denial of FAPE and access to the city’s charter schools – where over 70% of schools are charters:  Children with disabilities WERE significantly underrepresented in charter schools  Some charter schools suspend children with disabilities at rates 100% higher than the state average.  Only 6.8% of students with disabilities graduated with a high school diploma & 49% of students w/disabilities failed to finish school. Education Law Center-PA 41

42 ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITIES  Advocacy in the Charter School context:  Public Schools ARE obligated to admit, educate & provide a FAPE in the least restrictive environment.  IDEA’s requirements apply with equal force in all cases.  State programs cannot exclude or deny equal benefit to students with disabilities.  Advocacy in the Cyber Charter context:  Cyber charters cannot refuse to educate children with disabilities & must monitor and ensure progress.  Cyber charter schools must provide “specially designed instruction” & make modifications to the curriculum.  Cyber charter schools must provide “related services”  They must comply with all applicable procedural safeguards, including parent participation in IEP meetings etc. 42

43 RIGHTS OF STUDENTS WHO ARE HOME SCHOOLED 43 Education Law Center, PA

44 RIGHT TO EVALUATION Education Law Center, PA 44  Parent’s request for an initial evaluation and re- evaluations should be made in writing to the child’s resident school district.  The child’s resident school district must evaluate the child and explain the results to the parent.  The evaluations should be conducted according to the same rules as for children attending public schools.

45  These students have no right to FAPE. RIGHT TO A FAPE Education Law Center, PA 45

46  A “home education plan” for a child eligible for special education must address the specific needs of the child and be approved by a PA certified special education teacher or a licensed clinical or certified school psychologist.  The school district or IU can agree with the Program Supervisor to provide some services. There may be a right to some services if the child is dual enrolled in public school. TYPE OF PLAN/SERVICES PROVIDED Education Law Center, PA 46

47  Pennsylvania law allows children who are home schooled to participate in some extra-curricular activities offered by their home school district.  Local school districts may, but are not required to, offer some academic courses to students who are home schooled.  As with all federally–funded programs, students may not be excluded from participation in programs offered by the public school district on the basis of their disability. RIGHT TO INCLUSION Education Law Center, PA 47

48  Any services agreed upon must take place at a public school or a licensed private school.  Services will not be provided at home.  Transportation services may be agreed to by the school district or IU with the Program Supervisor. RIGHT TO TRANSPORTATION Education Law Center, PA 48

49  Any special education services must be agreed upon by the supervisor (the home school instructor) and school district or intermediate unit.  Since there is no duty to provide FAPE, the parent cannot use the hearing or complaint system to challenge a school district’s refusal to provide services. However parents can use the hearing process or mediation if it relates to the school district’s duty to evaluate the child. RIGHT TO DISPUTE RESOLUTION Education Law Center, PA 49

50 CASE STUDY EXAMPLES 50 Education Law Center, PA

51 RIGHTS OF STUDENTS PLACED BY PARENTS IN PAROCHIAL OR NON- PROFIT PRIVATE SCHOOL 51 Education Law Center, PA

52 RIGHT TO EVALUATION Education Law Center, PA 52  Parent’s request for an initial evaluation and re-evaluations should be made in writing to the child’s resident school district.  The IU where the private school is located must evaluate the child.  The evaluation must be conducted according the same rules as for children attending the public schools.

53  These students have no right to FAPE. RIGHT TO A FAPE Education Law Center, PA 53

54  Children placed by their parents in a private school are entitled only to “equitable participation services” which should be listed on an Equitable Participation Services Plan.”  Unlike an IEP, the IU does not have to provide all of the services listed on the EP Services Plan if circumstances change (e.g., the IU exhausts the state and federal funds for EP Services).  A child may be able to get services from local school district if dual enrolled.  Non-religious private schools have a duty to provide “reasonable accommodations” for children with qualifying disabilities (a/k/a Service Agreement or 504 Plan). TYPE OF PLAN/SERVICES PROVIDED Education Law Center, PA 54

55  Federal law (ADA) prohibits discrimination by private, non-parochial schools.  Private, non-parochial schools must eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards that deny access to individuals with disabilities and make reasonable modifications in policies practices and procedures unless such a change would be an “undue burden” or be a “fundamental change” to the nature of the program. RIGHT TO INCLUSION Education Law Center, PA 55

56  School district must provide students with transportation to and from a non-profit private school that is in the district or within 10 miles of its boundaries.  The IU is responsible for transportation to a service it has agreed to provide. RIGHT TO TRANSPORTATION Education Law Center, PA 56

57  Students do not have any special disciplinary protections. PROTECTION IN SCHOOL DISCIPLINE Education Law Center, PA 57

58  Since there is no duty to provide FAPE, parent cannot use mediation or the hearing system to challenge a school district’s refusal to provide services.  However parents can use the hearing process or mediation if it relates to the IU’s duty to evaluate the child. RIGHT TO DISPUTE RESOLUTION Education Law Center, PA 58

59 CASE STUDY EXAMPLES 59 Education Law Center, PA

60 PDE issues Basic Education Circulars (BECs), which provide guidance on the implementation of law, regulation and policy; these include:  The charter school BEC (“meant to serve as a guide for charter schools, school districts, parents, and students”)  The cyber charter BEC  Enrollment Q&A, which includes information on charter schools  Other special education BECs include sections on the responsibilities of charter schools to serve students with disabilities RESOURCES: PA DEP’T OF ED (PDE) BECS Education Law Center, PA 60

61 CONTACT INFORMATION Maura McInerney Senior Staff Attorney Education Law Center Ext. 316 Education Law Center 1315 Walnut Street Suite 400 Philadelphia, PA Law & Finance Building 429 Fourth Ave. Pittsburgh, PA Education Law Center-PA 61


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