The U.S. Department of Education recently released a “Dear Colleague” Letter to clarify that all students who qualify, or would qualify, in their neighborhood school District for either an IEP under the I.D.E.A., or a Section 504 Plan under the Rehabilitation Act – have the exact same rights for services if they attend a Public Charter School.
Therefore, if your child is enrolled in a Public Charter School, she has the same rights to special education services and/or accommodations in the charter school as she would have if she was enrolled in the general public school in her District. Such rights run the gamut of varying special needs and disabilities, including but not limited to learning deficits, reading difficulties, autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety, behavioral disabilities, and psychological disabilities.
Although these laws have always applied to Public Charter Schools, some charter school Administrations do not understand their obligations under these laws, and have misinformed parents of their children’s corresponding rights.
You can use the Department’s clarifying letter to help you obtain services if you run into an Administrator who is telling you that the obligations of the Charter school are in any way less or different from any other public school. That letter can be found here: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201612-504-charter-school.pdf
Two other documents from the Department of Education that may also be helpful are: (1) an FAQ on Section 504 and Public Charter Schools issued by the US Office of Civil Rights, which can be found here — www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-faq-201612-504-charterschool.pdf; and (2) an FAQ by the same Office concerning the I.D.E.A. and Public charter schools, which can be found here — www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/faq-idea-charter-school.pdf
If your child qualifies for services under either statute, or if you even suspect that she might qualify for such services – the fact that she attends a Public Charter School should not deter you from obtaining the services that she needs. These laws provide powerful tools and, if necessary, an attorney with knowledge of these laws and how they apply can bring these schools to meet their obligations for your child.