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Questions regarding special ed and charter schools in California

Thanks to several civil rights acts that have been passed by the federal government over the last few decades, children with disabilities have the right to a quality education in public schools across the nation. In order to continue receiving federal funding, public schools must adhere to these civil rights acts and may not deny a student enrollment because of a disability.

Though some of our readers may not realize it, this goes for public charter schools as well. But because of how charter schools are formed and how they operate, the application of federal law can raise a few questions. In this week's blog post, we will look at a few of these questions.

What civil rights obligations apply to charter schools?

Several civil rights acts apply to public charter schools when it comes to special education including Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These all prohibit a school from discriminating against students or denying them enrollment.

Do charter school facilities need to accommodate students with disabilities?

The answer is yes. Whether that disability is physical or mental, charter schools are required by federal law to make accommodations for students with disabilities. This could mean everything from ensuring access to a school facility to additional educational services during school hours.

Who is responsible for making sure obligations are met?

Although the charter school is responsible for making sure that it complies with federal laws regarding students with disabilities, it's worth noting that other entities may share in this responsibility as well. Depending on who the charter school is partnered with, such as a school district and/or an authorizing public chartering agency, these organizations may also be responsible for ensuring compliance in order to continue receiving federal funding.

Sources: The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, "Applying Federal Civil Rights Laws to Public Charter Schools," May 2000, Accessed July 22, 2014  

The California Department of Education, "Enrollment Of Students With Disabilities In Charter Schools," Oct. 16, 2006, Accessed July 21, 2014

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