Because charter schools are typically formed by teachers, parents and people within a community, some people assume that these schools do not have to follow the same rules as public schools. It's believed that some charter schools even practice "soft discrimination" by turning away children with disabilities and special needs in exchange for students who can bring test scores up and bring the school more funding.
These assumptions are not without merit now because of lawsuits brought by parents in Louisiana and Florida against charter schools that allegedly barred special needs students from attending, or failed to make special education services available to special needs students. But our Santa Cruz readers should remember that just because dishonest activities such as this happen in charter schools in other states, this may not be the case here in California.
If you're a regular follower of our blog and read our July post on special education in charter schools, then you would know that charter schools have to follow state and federal laws just as much as public schools do. This means that charter schools here in California may not turn away a student simply because they have a disability. Charter schools also have to accommodate students with special needs by providing services that will give them access to the education they deserve.
Some in our state have tried to make the argument that charter schools here in California are practicing soft discrimination by pointing to the fact that there is a smaller attendance rate for special needs students in charter schools than in public schools. But if we look closely at the actual gap, which is only about 1.5 percent, we can see that there may not be an issue at all. In fact, according to an article for the Voice of San Diego, this gap is even closing.
As some of you may know, just because there are laws in place doesn't always mean institutions will follow them. This is why it's important for Santa Cruz parents -- as well as parents across the state -- to know that they can take legal action against a charter school for failing to provide special education services. It's a good idea to do so with the help of a lawyer though, as navigating the legal system can be challenging for someone without the right legal background.