Special Education Advocacy and Charter Schools

Special Education Advocacy and Charter Schools

Operating pursuant to a charter granted either by a local educational or the State Board of Education, charter schools are primary or secondary schools created by interested agencies and individuals and receive public money for the students who attend. Other than public schools which have become charter schools, charter school are attended by choice and are a popular alternative to schools operated by a local school district.

In California, every student who otherwise qualifies for entrance into a charter school has the right to attend without regard to his or her disabilities. Charter schools are not exempt from laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities. This means that charter schools must provide special education and related services to the same extent such services are provided in district operated schools.

Just like district operated schools, a charter school has the duty to identify and assess students in all areas of suspected disability and a student cannot be asked to leave a charter school because he or she has a disability. Once a child has been identified as eligible for services, the charter school must give notice and convene IEPs with the necessary members of the IEP team. It must provide an appropriate educational program for each student who is eligible for special education services. When a charter school fails to do so, parents have the same rights and remedies to seek “due process” through an administrative hearing as those with a child enrolled in a district operated school.

As the charter school movement develops, and more district-operated schools become charters, it is essential for parents to understand that their children lose no rights when they enroll in a charter school or if the local school becomes a charter. Students with disabilities have the same rights as all other students to attend charter schools and parents have every right to be aggressive advocates for their children in charter schools just as they would if their children were in district operated public schools. A student need not leave a charter school to obtain an appropriate education. If a charter school does not provide such an education for a student, parents should consider obtaining advocacy services for their child.

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