page contents

The Rights of Students with Physical or Health Impairments

WHO DOES NEED SPECIAL EDUCATION?

Some children with disabilities may need special accommodations in school, and yet not need formal “special education.” These children can include those with epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, muscular dystrophy or other health or physical impairments. These children have rights under a federal law known as “§504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,” and state regulations known as “Chapter 15.”

1. What rights does my child have under §504 and Chapter 15? Under most circumstances, the school
district must provide the modifications, accommodations and services that a child with a health or other disability needs to participate in and obtain the benefits of the school program. The district must make sure that the child has equal access to all school programs and activities, including extra-curricular clubs or programs, assemblies, lunch and field trips.

For example, a district might be required to make changes in a child’s schedule to take account of a health need, dispense medication that the child needs during the school day, allow a child who uses a wheelchair to use the staff elevator, provide a desk or other equipment or material that is modified for the child’s use, or provide assistance to the child for toileting or for traveling around the school building.

2. How do I get the services my child needs? If you believe that your child needs this type of help to participate fully in school, you must write to your school district. In your letter, explain the type of assistance you believe is needed. If you have evaluations, records or prescriptions from a specialist that you are willing to share, you should include copies with your request.

The school district must respond to you in writing within 25 school days. If the district agrees that the child needs the services you’ve requested, you and the district then develop a written, “service agreement,” which must state the services that will be provided. If the school district believes that it needs more information to decide whether to provide the requested services, it can ask you for additional information, and for permission to evaluate your child further.

3. What if the school district and I don’t agree on the type or amount of services needed? You can use any or all of these steps:

You can request an informal conference with district officials by sending a written request to the
principal or superintendent. Within 10 days of receiving your request, the district must hold an
informal conference to try to resolve the disagreement.

If the problems are not working out at the informal conference, you can request a formal “due
process” hearing by sending a written request to your superintendent. A trained and impartial
hearing officer will hear evidence, and resolve the dispute. Hearing officers’ decisions can be
appealed directly to court if either side is dissatisfied.

If you believe that your child is being discriminated against, you can file a complaint by sending a
letter explaining the situation to the federal Office for Civil Rights, which is in charge of enforcing
§504. OCR’s address is: Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, Wanamaker Bldg.,
Suite 515, Philadelphia, PA 19107. However, OCR will not resolve disputes about the type of
amount of services your child needs.

You can file a lawsuit under certain circumstances. You should check with an attorney before doing this.

4. What if the school district doesn’t comply with the service agreement, doesn’t follow the required procedure or denies my child equal access to a school activity? In addition to the steps listed in #3 above, you may also send a letter of complaint too the State’s Division of Compliance and Planning, 333 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333. The Division will investigate the problem and issue a written report within 60 days, and is required to follow-up to make sure illegal practices are corrected. However, like OCR, the Division will not resolve disputes about the amount or type of services or accommodations that a child needs – that can only be done by a hearing officer, after a formal hearing.

Prepared by the Education Law Center – PA (Revised 11/99)

email – elc@elc-pa.org
Education Law Center Web Site http://www.elc-pa.org/

Children with diabetes and their parents can find school related information at Diabetes and Children.

Also see the Pennsylvania School Reform Network (PSRN) at http://www.psrn.org/evaluation.html

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *