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Access by Students with Disabilities to Accelerated Programs by Lori M. Gaines, Esq.

Access by Students with Disabilities to Accelerated Programs by Lori M. Gaines, Esq.

There is a common misunderstanding by school districts that if students with disabilities meet school district requirements to enroll in accelerated programs they should not be entitled to receive the accommodations, modifications and specialized instruction called for in their IEPs. This misunderstanding is devastating to the students they impact.

I recently had a potential client contact me advising that her daughter met requirements to enroll in the accelerated 8th grade math class in her public school. She was advised, however, that if her daughter was to enroll in that class, she would have to waive her daughter’s right to critical accommodations and modifications in her IEP. Not wanting to forfeit her daughter’s earned placement in the accelerated math class, this mother agreed to waive her daughter’s right to the accommodations she required. Needless to say, shortly into the placement it was clear that without the accommodations in place, she was struggling. What is most important to realize is that it was the District’s own Child Study Team who determined this student needed the provisions detailed in her IEP and yet the District then denied her access to those provisions when placed in the accelerated math class.

This student’s special education rights were violated. In fact, the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) took up this very issue nearly a decade ago. Despite this, school districts continue to misinform parents regarding their children’s special education rights in accelerated classes. OCR advised that practices necessitating that classified students give up the services that have been designed to meet their individual needs are “inconsistent with Federal Law…” OCR reported that, the practice of denying, on the basis of disability, a qualified student with a disability the opportunity to participate in an accelerated program violates Section 504, Title II, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Specifically, OCR advised that, “The requirement for individualized determinations is violated when schools ignore the student’s individual needs and automatically deny a qualified student with a disability needed related aids and services in an accelerated class or program.”

We urge you to be wary of any requests on the District’s part to forfeit the services that your child requires to be appropriately educated in school. Your classified child is entitled to an appropriate education even in general education classes and even in accelerated general education classes.