Colorado Education Law Blog (11)
Special education and civil rights in Colorado
How do you support your child with disabilities? In what ways is the school district required to help? Navigating the maze of IDEA and Section 504 can be intimidating. Some of the work you can do on your own (see the blog series “Access to Justice for My Child with Disabilities”) but there are also ways an attorney can help.
Interactions between parents of children with disabilities and school districts can go wrong in so many ways: refusal to evaluate a child; inadequate IEP; not carrying out the IEP; harassing or bullying the child; refusing access to extracurricular activities; and many more. This frustrates parents and students. When this happens, what can you do?
Even when schools put in place an IEP or Section 504 plan for your student, they may not address extracurricular access. This can make it hard for your student to participate in extracurricular events. After a government report found that students with disabilities do not have equal opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, the Office for Civil Rights issued Section 504 guidance.
With the amount of information that exists about people on the web, naturally employers are tempted to check up on it, for purposes of hiring, evaluations, and firing. Some employers take this to the level of requesting, even requiring, current or prospective employees to give their passwords or allow access onto their profiles. At least in Colorado, this practice must come to a screeching halt.
Getting a good evaluation for a child with disabilities can be a challenge. Mark C. Weber’s article, “All Areas of Suspected Disability,” published in 2013, provides valuable insight into the current state of the law on evaluating children with disabilities. If you have a child where an inadequate evaluation is an issue, this is worth reading. Courts have stepped into the area of tension between the requirements of IDEA and the low-level “reasonable benefit” standard we got from the Supreme Court, and usually held in favor of parents when children have not been evaluated properly.
When Douglas County, Colorado, instituted the Choice Scholarship Program, a private scholarship system that allows parents to select a private school (from an approved list) and receive a tuition scholarship to attend, several groups and individual Plaintiffs (such as the ACLU) sued, saying the program violated certain statutory and constitutional provisions of Colorado law. While opponents to the program won in the district court, the Colorado Court of Appeals recently reversed, ordering a judgment for Douglas County.
See more here on the Religious Law Network website.
One challenge in figuring out what religious speech is permitted for students is that it depends on whether the school is trying to prevent the speech or allow it. A January 2013 Second Circuit case, A.M. v. Taconic Hills Central School District, gives some insight, though it is a summary order that is not precedential.
Sometimes when school boards worry about endorsing religion, they go too far the other way. This seems to have happened when fourth-grade J.G. was not allowed to hand out his Easter Egg Hunt invitations. A Florida federal court granted a preliminary injunction in favor of his student speech in Gilio v. School Board of Hillsborough County on October 5, 2012. It reasoned that J.G. was likely to win his arguments that the school had violated his constitutional rights.
My blog post today has nothing to do with the law for children with special needs. Instead, I want to offer a resource for living with children with special needs, especially when they have behavioral issues. I want to introduce my good friend, Melanie Boudreau, a brilliant, funny, wise woman. When she and I too rarely manage to carve out time for hiking, skiing, or camping, it's always a great time of sharing ideas and laughing together. Melanie started this blog of reflections on parenting children with special needs. If you are one of us who has been judged for having kids with brain chemistry issues, read it to be encouraged about your own family. If not, read it to understand another family you may be tempted to judge.