A wide range of federal laws protect grade school and high school students from various forms of discrimination in public schools. Some of these laws overlap, and more than one anti-discrimination law may apply to a given situation. What's important is that you know when your child's school has violated these rights and are aware of the legal remedies available to you.
Discrimination in Public Schools Is Prohibited
Your child cannot be denied educational services offered to other students because of race, color, sex or national origin. For example, a state public school system cannot intentionally segregate students, even if done indirectly such as by rezoning school districts where the result is increased segregation. If your child's first language isn't English, the Equal Education Opportunity Act (EEOA) requires public school systems to offer certain programs to help the child develop adequate language skills so that the youngster will have a level playing field in the classroom.
Public Schools Must Accommodate Students With Disabilities
If your child has a physical or mental disability, public and private schools alike must comply with the anti-discriminatory provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One goal of the ADA is to ensure that students who have a disability don't receive a second-rate education because of it. For example, if your child's disability requires the use of a wheelchair, school buildings must have enough ramps. If your child is unable to attend a school presentation or function because she can't physically access the school auditorium, this is likely an ADA violation.
Special Education Students Are Entitled to Individualized Study Programs
Students who suffer from learning disabilities and require a little more attention at school to succeed must be given access to special education programs. These programs cannot take a "one-size-fits-all" approach. Under federal law, all public schools systems must develop individualized education programs (IEPs) that meet each disabled student's needs.
All Students Are Entitled to the Same Quality of Education
All public schools that receive federal funding must make every attempt to educate disabled and non-disabled students in the same setting. Only in situations where a child's needs are better served in a different environment is it appropriate to separate disabled students. If school officials try to place your child in a special-purpose class or an alternative school, you have the right to ask questions and make sure your school has considered all other reasonable solutions.
An Civil Rights Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding discrimination in education is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. We hope you found it useful. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a disability rights lawyer.