Understanding the Rights of Children with Disabilities: Tools for Parents & Advocates
“Know Your Child’s Rights!”A monthly Training Program in Special Education Law:
The Law Center offers “Know Your Child’s Rights!” workshops, a year-long training program focused on specific issues faced by parents, teachers, advocates, lawyers and others involved in special education. Each monthly session focuses on a specific issue (past topics have included assistive technology, zero tolerance policies, and creating an IEP), and empowers attendees with the knowledge to navigate these systems and secure needed services for children with disabilities. CLE credit is available.
All sessions are available by webinar (CLE credit only available for in-person attendees). In order to guarantee that this information is available to all who need it, you can choose your own price based on what you feel you can afford. Please visit the Upcoming Events page for information on upcoming sessions and registration information.
In 2011, students from the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University worked with the Law Center to create these short, informational videos to help parents understand their child’s rights and how to secure them.
- Your Child’s Rights by Daniel Colbert – explains how a child is recommended for special education, evaluated, and given an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and a special education placement.
- Parents’ Rights by Neha Yadav and Aminah Shabazz – gives a brief overview of parents’ rights in the special education system. It explains the process when requesting an evaluation and what rights parents are entitled to.
- How Does the Evaluation Process Work? by Anette Thomas and Cira Davis – about the evaluation process that precedes placement in special education. It covers how to request an evaluation and what the process is when the school requests an evaluation.
- After an IEP: What’s Next in Special Education? by Margaret Wheltle – goes through the process of what happens after a student is identified for special education. It covers the creation of the student’s education plan, how to change the plan, and what parents can do if they disagree with the plan.
What to Watch Out for This School Year: Important Information For Parents Of Children With IEPs:
Schools are legally obligated to provide special education services without gaps or delays. The Law Center and other Philly-area advocacy organizations have put together a guide for making sure your child gets the special education services he or she needs this coming school year. What to Watch out For
Education Law Center’s Online Resources :
The Education Law Center (ELC) offers a number of useful fact sheets and manuals for parents on a wide range of topics including early intervention, discipline, evaluations, and general special education rights.
IEP Checklist App:
The Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center has created an iPhone app to help parents better advocate for their child during the IEP process.
Rules Regarding Timely Special Education Evaluations during School Breaks
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, initial evaluations of children suspected of having disabilities must be conducted within 60 (calendar) days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation or if the State establishes a time frame within which the evaluation must be conducted within such timeframe. Pennsylvania, however, has taken the view that evaluations must be completed within 60 calendar days, “except that the calendar days from the day after the last day of the spring school term up to and including the day before the first day of the subsequent fall school term will not be counted.”
In a recent opinion letter, Letter to Reyes, the U.S. Department of Education explained that while a state may have a longer time frame for the initial evaluation, there is simply no exception that permits the initial evaluation timeline to be suspended because of a school break. Therefore, although conducting evaluations during extended breaks can pose challenges for school districts, the U.S. Department of Education explained that the State and its local educational agencies have a duty to identify and evaluate all children with disabilities in order to ensure that a free appropriate public education is made available to them in a timely manner.
Consultation and Legal Representation
Law Center offers consultation services for families of children with disabilities. An attorney will review your child’s educational records and then meet with you to provide information and advice about how to assure your child receives the education he or she is entitled to. The discussion will be followed up with a report summarizing our advice. The services are available by appointment only. Families who do not qualify as low income will be asked to make a modest payment covering the Law Center’s costs; rates will be discussed with families when we set up an appointment. For more information or to request a consultation, click here.
The Law Center is currently accepting cases in the Philadelphia and Lower Merion School Districts only. Please contact us to learn more about our representation services.
Associations and Advocates
- The Coalition of Inclusion Advocates (CIA), of which the Law Center is a member, is a cross-disability coalition of individuals associated with disability advocacy organizations.
- TASH brings together self-advocates, families, professionals, policy-makers, advocates and many others to promote the full inclusion and participation of children and adults with significant disabilities in every aspect of their community, and to eliminate the social injustices that diminish human rights.
- The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.
- Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) is a membership organization of attorneys, advocates, parents and other professionals. COPAA members work to protect special education rights and secure excellence in education on behalf of the 7.1 million children with disabilities in America. The Law Center’s Sonja Kerr was the first chair of COPAA.
- National Council on Disability (NCD) is a small, independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities.
- Disabled Peoples’ International is a network of national organizations or assemblies of disabled people, established to promote human rights of disabled people through full participation, equalization of opportunity and development.
Statutes & Case law
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law that requires states accepting federal money to provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. It addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities from birth to age 18 or 21. For more information, visit the official IDEA Website.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which took effect in 1977, is the first civil rights statute for people with disabilities. It sought to end discrimination against people with disabilities by stating “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” For more information, please visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights.
- Chapter 15 of Pennsylvania’s Public School Code, adopted in February of 1991, describe a school district’s responsibility to comply with the requirements of Section 504. Specifically, each district must provide “each protected handicapped student enrolled in the district, without cost to the student or family, those related aids, services or accommodations which are needed to afford the student equal opportunity to participate in and obtain the benefits of the school program and extracurricular activities without discrimination and to the maximum extent appropriate to the student’s abilities.” Click here to read the code in full.
- Forest Grove School District v. T.A. With this important 2009 decision, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its opinion that when schools fail to comply with the IDEA, and parents must take action to place their children privately to obtain the education they need, parents may obtain tuition reimbursement