Special Education Frequently Asked Questions
Who is eligible for special education?
Individuals with disabilities aged three to 21, or graduation from high school, whichever come first, are entitled to receive special education and related services if their disability affects their educational performance. Also, children with disabilities who do not qualify for special education services may still be entitled to services and reasonable accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, or the American with Disabilities Act.
Do parents of children with disabilities have rights and legal protections?
Yes! Parents of children with disabilities have numerous legal rights and protections under both federal and state laws.
Can a child with a disability be disciplined in the same manner as a child without a disability?
No! Both federal and state laws provide safeguards and protections for children with disabilities when they are faced with discipline by the school district.
What are due process rights?
If a parent disagrees with the school district's identification of the child, the school district's evaluation of the child, or with the educational program and/or placement of the child, the parent may elect to exercise his/her due process rights by filing a written request for medication and/or a due process hearing. If the parent disagrees with the results of the due process hearing, the parent may appeal to federal court.
Is a due process hearing like a full blown trial?
No. Due process hearings are administrative hearings that take place in front of a hearing officer, not a judge or a jury, and usually are held on the school district premises. A due process hearing is much less formal and stressful than a stereotypical trial.
Can parents and children with disabilities receive pure monetary damages if they win a due process hearing?
Not in Pennsylvania. If parents are successful at a due process hearing, they may be awarded various types of relief. For example, a hearing officer may award something called "compensatory education," which may be a number of hours of services that the school district failed to provide to the child, but will now have to "make up." In addition, if the case is settled before proceeding to a due process hearing, the school district may establish a "compensatory education fund" consisting of a certain sum of money, from which the parents may draw from to provide appropriate educational services/resources/materials for the child.
Can a school district change the placement of a child receiving special education services without first obtaining parental consent?
No. Parental consent must be obtained prior to changing a child's special education placement. Parental consent must also be obtained prior to changing a child's special education program (IEP). The consent must be in writing. Decisions to change a child's special education placement and program must be made by the child's entire IEP team, (which includes the parent(s) not just the school district.
Are Pennsylvania charter schools considered public schools?
Yes, both Pennsylvania charter schools and cyber charter schools are considered public schools that must follow the applicable Pennsylvania and Federal laws containing procedures and regulations for the education of students with disabilities who attend public schools. Charter schools actually have their own set of Pennsylvania regulations under Title 22 of the Pennsylvania Code (22 Pa. Code Ch. 711).