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Do Charter Schools Have to Give Accommodations to Kids Who Learn and Think Differently?

By Lindsay Jones, JD

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Question: I chose to send my son to a charter school, but there are so many rules about student conduct. My son with ADHD needs helps following them. Are charter schools required to provide accommodations for kids with learning and thinking differences?

Answer:

Charter schools are public schools. That means they have to follow as well as and other civil rights laws.

It’s true that some charter schools have strict conduct rules and make kids do things like wear uniforms. There are also online charter schools, where kids don’t see their teachers or classmates face-to-face. But all these schools still have the same responsibilities that traditional public schools have to determine which students are eligible for IEPs or 504 plans. And charter schools have to provide accommodations for kids who qualify for them.

In the past some charter schools had a history of “counseling out” certain students, meaning they would discourage students with and other learning and thinking differences from enrolling. But charter schools aren’t allowed to do this. The law is very clear about this.

So what can you do to improve the situation at your child’s school? Talk with your child. Meet with his teachers. Think through different ways to help your child succeed.

Let’s say tucking in his shirt is a big issue. Does your child need just need a reminder to tuck in and he does it? If that reminder has to happen once a day, then that could be one of his accommodations.

It all boils down to two big questions: Does your child meet the eligibility requirement that gives him protection under the law? And do you think this charter school is the best environment for your child?

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then there’s no reason your child has to leave because of learning and thinking differences. Keep in mind that all public schools—including charters—need to provide a free and appropriate education to students with qualifying disabilities.

You may want to read more about your rights if your child has an IEP or if your child has a 504 plan. Then talk with the school staff and get them to help you come up with ways to make it work.

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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

ADHD

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