Special education is intended to meet each disabled student’s unique needs and to assure that students with disabilities receive all needed aids and services. Federal and state laws require public schools to provide a free and appropriate education to students with disabilities. Special education laws are in place to protect a student with disabilities and ensure that he or she gets the services and assistance necessary to be successful. These laws and regulations are complex and attorney Kristin Palace helps parents navigate the system.
Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination
All students have the right to be safe at school. Federal anti-discrimination laws protect students from harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, or disability. Additionally, Massachusetts has a law that prohibits bullying, including cyber-bullying. The bullying law requires school districts to take certain actions in response to reports of bullying and requires parental and law enforcement notification under certain circumstances.
The school choice program allows parents to send their children to schools in communities other than the city or town in which they reside. Tuition is paid by the sending district to the receiving district. Not all districts elect to participate in school choice and the decision to participate is made on an annual basis. Participating districts can limit school choice to certain grades, depending on available space. Receiving districts cannot discriminate against special education students when making admission decisions.
Student Disciplinary Matters
Many students get into trouble at school from time to time, but students with disabilities are far more likely than their neuro-typical peers to run up against the disciplinary code. Because a student’s disability is often related to the behavior that caused the disciplinary infraction, students with disabilities are entitled to certain protections to ensure that they are not being penalized because of their disability. Up to a point, school districts are permitted to discipline special education students in the same manner as other students, but once the threshold is met, districts must hold special meetings to determine whether a student’s disability is causing the behavior and, if so,what changes to the student’s program can be made to address the student’s maladaptive behavior.