Federal and state law require public schools to provide students with disabilities a Free and Appropriate Public Education. What constitutes a Free and Appropriate Public Education depends on the student's educational needs. In order to understand a student's needs, the school must evaluate the child in all areas of suspected disability. The school must also consider the recommendations of private evaluations if the parent decides to share that information. If the evaluations indicate that the child needs special education, the school must offer the student an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP must address the student's unique needs and be reasonably calculated to provide an educational benefit. Throughout this process, parents have the right to be active participants in their child's education. If parents believe that their child is being denied a Free Appropriate Public Education, the law provides parents the right to challenge the school's decision at a due process hearing.
Before a public school can suspend or expel a student, certain procedures must be followed in order to preserve the student's due process rights. If the suspension is for more than 10 days, or if the school is seeking expulsion, the student has the right to written notice explaining the charges, describing the supporting evidence, and specifying the date, time and place of the discipline hearing. At the discipline hearing, students have the right to be represented by an attorney and to present their own evidence and witnesses. If the student is in special education, additional rights and protections apply.
Bullying and Harassment
Students have the right to be safe at school. Federal anti-discrimination laws protect students from peer harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. Massachusetts' new anti-bullying law prohibits bullying, cyber-bullying and retaliation. The law also requires parental and law enforcement notification in certain circumstances. Students in special education have additional rights under the bullying law.
School Choice and Residency
Students in Massachusetts have the right to attend school in the city where they actually reside. Under No Child Left Behind, students attending failing schools have the right to exercise school choice and enroll in another school at their home district's expense.
"Lillian Wong was proactive in obtaining the appropriate services and a settlement agreement exceeding my expectations. She focused on what my child's documented disability requires for remedial services, as well as my parental perspective on what my child needs for services and placement.
Lillian Wong has an approachable personality and reliable legal management style that will put parents at ease with confidence."
- Massachusetts Parent, Special Education Advocate, and Client