Parents are protective of their children and want what’s best for them. Parents must often advocate for their kids, including their education, including dealing with charter schools, financial aid, special education access, school boards, and more. Part of that advocacy means knowing the rules and laws around student rights.
Many federal rules cover the public education system in the United States. Your state may have its own unique protections on top of federal requirements. But federal education law governs the basic requirements.
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or administrator, you care about the children and want to ensure they have the protections they need. Knowing more about these federal education policies can help you achieve those goals. You can also talk to an education lawyer if you need help.
What Are the Federal Minimum Requirements for Education Law?
Many laws governing education standards became law through a few key federal acts. These school laws are updated as we learn more about child development and learning styles to ensure kids have the best educational opportunities possible. This allows laws to address specific areas of need and support. Some of the more prominent acts are:
The Every Student Succeeds Act
One of the most important laws governing U.S. public schools is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in 2015. It updated older education laws to match modern needs and opportunities.
Some of the school requirements outlined by ESSA include:
- High school curricula that prepare students for higher education and/or entering the workforce
- State-run testing to measure student progress and competence
- Resources to support special education
- Improvement plans and resource allocation for struggling schools
ESSA also provides funding for literacy programs and gives parents more of a say in their children’s education.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
Another set of laws that public schools must follow is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This act protects student privacy. It also gives parents (or sometimes the students themselves) access to the student’s school records. This also gives them a chance to request corrections to inaccurate information.
In most cases, parents must consent for a school to share a child’s records. Some exceptions include transfers to another school when it’s educationally relevant and for certain emergencies.
Education Law and Discrimination
Education laws demand equal, quality education for all students. Under federal law and the U.S. Constitution, schools cannot discriminate against students based on protected class status like race, gender, disability, and national origin.
Discrimination against disabilities is governed by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and overseen by the Office for Civil Rights. It requires public schools to show and follow accommodation and modification plans to give students with special needs an equitable education.
Racial discrimination in schools falls under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act required schools to desegregate and prohibits racial discrimination. All students must have equal opportunity and education, regardless of race. They must also have fair and equal access to extracurricular activities and student organizations.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 outlaws sex and gender-based discrimination. It requires schools to provide equal education, support, and opportunities to students regardless of gender. This is expanding to cover protection for LGBTQ+ students. Title IX is also known for providing more equitable school athletic opportunities.
What Do I Do if a School Is Breaking These Laws?
If you’re worried that a school is failing to follow special education laws or is discriminating against students, you have legal options to address those problems.
You could go to the school’s administration or school district for small-scale problems, like discipline by one teacher. If the administration is unwilling to address any issues, you could report them to state or federal educational institutions.
You can also consult with an education attorney on any legal education issues. An attorney with experience in education policy issues could help you understand your legal rights. An attorney can help you negotiate a dispute resolution so your child gets the educational opportunities they need.
Speak to an Experienced Education Law Attorney Today
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified education lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local education attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.
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Additional Education Law Articles
- Special Education Eligibility
- A Back to School Checklist: How to Enroll Your Child in Public School
- Understanding School Medical Consent Forms
- There is Such a Thing as a Free (and Nutritious) School Lunch
- The IDEA of Special Education
- How to Legally Home School Your Child
- What rights does my child with a disability have under the No Child Left Behind Act?
- What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?
- What is the difference between the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act?
- How do I prepare for my child’s special education due process hearing?
- What should I do if the school is discriminating against my child with a disability?