Students with disabilities in Pa. charter schools

On November 26th The Legal Intelligencer published Charter School Reform Must Protect Vulnerable Students, by David Lapp, a staff attorney at the Education Law Center (ELC).  This excellent piece discusses a problem which we have often seen in our practice – charter schools believing they can operate like private schools, without regard to the rights of special needs students.

Many charter schools forget they are publicly chartered schools, receiving public funds.  As such, they have specific obligations to children with with special needs which, in most respects, parallell those of public school districts.  Chapter 711 (22 Pa. Code § 711.1, et seq.) addresses charter school and cyber charter school services and programs for children with disabilities, including compliance with the IDEA and Section 504 and their implementing regulations, 34 CFR Part 300 and 34 CFR Part 104, respectively (§ 711.3(a)).

Unfortunately, many parents don’t know they have these protections, with the result that special needs children are illegally denied admission to charter schools, are asked to leave when disabilities are identified or remain in charter schools without needed plans and services.  The ELC is to be commended for their active role in educating parents and the community on the obligations of charter schools.

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