California Special Education Civil Rights Litigation

Special Education Civil RightsThe term “civil rights” is defined as the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality. Civil rights litigation refers to the job of a civil rights attorney to conduct research on a case, draft legal documents, argue the case in mediation or court, and negotiate settlements.

All students living in the United States have the right to free and appropriate public education. “All students” truly means all––no matter immigration status, disability including pregnancy and HIV status, religion, sex (including gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation), ethnic background, and so forth. Federal civil rights laws prohibit discrimination in all public schools and institutions that receive U.S. Department of Education funds. This includes elementary and secondary school systems, colleges and universities, vocational schools, proprietary schools, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, libraries, and museums.

Regarding special needs and differently-abled students attending publicly funded schools, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects students from discrimination with both visible and hidden disabilities. Visual disabilities could be a student who is blind or deaf. An invisible disability could include conditions and diseases such as learning disabilities, epilepsy, heart disease, or poor hearing. Whatever the student’s situation, condition, or disease––a school district is not allowed to discriminate in any way according to federal and California state law.

If a private school accepts federal funds, it must adhere to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. However, there are also many exemptions for private schools regarding discrimination, which can impact their degree of accountability to federal civil rights laws in the U.S.

Common Examples of Civil Rights Discrimination:
  • CA Special Education Civil RightsA school prevents a student with disabilities from attending a field trip or an extracurricular activity.
  • A teacher threatens to “out” a student to their families or forces them to wear a type of clothing that is not consistent with their gender identity.
  • A student with limited English proficiency is turned away instead of provided ESL classes and resources to help them learn.
  • A school has failed to train staff on compliance with state and federal discrimination and disability laws.
  • A female student is not allowed to play a sport or take a class.

What Rights Do Students and Families Have?

Students and families, that attend state and federally funded schools, institutions, and programs have a multitude of rights based on several laws such as:

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin.
  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972: Prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex (or gender identity).
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance.
  • If a student doesn’t speak English, it is the public school’s job to teach English and provide good education in other subjects while the student is learning the language.

These are just a few of the laws that protect students and families from civil rights discrimination. Additional laws protect students from specific situations that public school districts must follow and reasonably act upon.

When Should Someone Seek the Services of a California Education Attorney Who Specializes in Civil Rights?

If a special education student is experiencing any type of civil rights discrimination and the school district fails to resolve the issue in a swift and appropriate manner, it may be time to seek out legal help.


Here’s How We Can Help

The Law Offices of Jennifer Chang believe in protecting students’ rights to a safe and positive education under California laws. If your child is experiencing bullying and the school district has neglected to act, our attorneys will fight vigorously on your family’s behalf. Jennifer Chang has offices in California in Los Angeles, Buena Park, and San Jose.

Please reach out to us today online or call (323) 931-5270 to discuss your case.