The Education Law Center (ELC) recently updated their “Back to School” guide for families, students, and schools. The information now includes COVID-related considerations for the current school year. As students and families continue to face unprecedented challenges, it is important to know the proper education rights and protections available under state and federal laws. Continue reading below to learn more and contact an experienced Pennsylvania students rights attorney if you believe your child’s rights have been infringed upon.
Affirming & Safe Schools, Free From Racism
All Pennsylvania schools should invest in anti-racist education, develop comprehensive equity policies and practices. These should enable students to thrive and ensure that responses to situations of hate address the climate of a school as a whole. Schools are legally obligated to ensure students are not denied opportunities, treated differently, discriminated against, or harassed based on their race, color, origin, or immigration status.
Students have the right to be enrolled in school within five days of submitting the following documents:
- Proof of the child’s age
- Proof of where the child lives
- Immunization records
- A sworn statement of disciplinary record
The requirement to show proof of immunizations has been suspended for the first two months of the school year due to delays in obtaining immunizations during COVID-19.
Students have certain rights and protections when facing exclusionary school discipline, such as suspension, expulsion, and disciplinary transfers. This includes the right to a proper notice, the right to ask questions, the right to an appropriate hearing, and the right to receive education services in the interim and after exclusion.
Pennsylvania law requires all students to go to school from the age of six until 18 or graduation. There can be legal consequences if students have unexcused absences. If they accrue three unexcused absences, a student is considered “truant.” If they have six or more, they are “habitually truant.” Schools must take steps to improve attendance, such as holding attendance improvement conferences.
Bullying & Harassment
All students have the right to be free from bullying and harassment in school .This includes verbal, written, graphic, physical, or online. Schools must have written policies against this to investigate and address complaints.
Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities that impact their learning have the right to a “free appropriate public education.” This must be provided free of charge by the school. Parents can participate in the education process and consent or refuse certain services.
Early Childhood Education
Publicly funded programs offer free early childcare and education programs for children from low-income families. This can include Head Start, Early Head Start, and Pre-K Counts. The Early Intervention program provides services for children with developmental delays and disabilities free of cost to parents, regardless of their income.
Foster Care or Juvenile Justice Systems Students
Like all other students, children in foster care or juvenile justice systems have the right to a free public education. Students in foster care have additional rights to ensure their environment is stable in school, even if their living arrangements change. This includes the right to stay in the same school, the right to enroll in a new school immediately without required documents, and the right to have an active, involved education decision maker.
Students Experiencing Homelessness
Students who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability are entitled to school stability, immediate enrollment in school, and free transportation to and from school. This includes students who are unaccompanied and experiencing homelessness on their own. These protections have no time limit and remain until the student is no longer homeless.
Students & Families From Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Communities
English learners have the right to protections such as the right to learn English, the right to supports, modifications, and accommodations in their core classes, and the right to be free from harassment. All students have the right to go to school ,regardless of their immigration status, and schools cannot ask about status or require a birth certificate/Social Security number.
LGBTQ & Gender-Nonconforming Students
All LGBTQ and gender nonbinary or gender-noncomforning students have the same rights as other students. This includes being free from bullying and harassment. Schools must respect the rights of transgender students to access facilities and programs that align with their identity.
Contact our Firm
Anderson, Converse & Fennick is an experienced law firm in York County, Pennsylvania focusing on Education Law, Family Law, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation matters. If you need a knowledgeable attorney that will effectively represent your interests, contact Anderson, Converse & Fennick today.