Children in the United States have a right to a free and appropriate public education. Legal Aid works with families experiencing school problems related to discipline, expulsion, disabilities, homelessness and enrollment.
Say Yes To Education
FREE Legal Assistance for Families in Say Yes Schools!
Say Yes legal services help families achieve safety, economic security and permanent housing so children can stay in school and thrive. Click here for a helpful bilingual info card.
Legal assistance is available to help with the following types of legal problems:
Choose the option that works best for you:
- Ask your family support specialist for a referral
- Call 216.861.5510 to request assistance
- Apply for help online by clicking here.
Need more guidance and info? CLICK HERE to learn more about Legal Aid’s robust Access to Education work. At this page you can read helpful FAQs, brochures and learn more to ensure help kids are successful in school.
Access to Education for Homeless Students and Students Living in Temporary Housing
This brochure explains the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which is a federal law that requires school districts to provide an education to homeless students. This law protects students rights to enroll in school or continue attending school despite lacking necessary documents, and to transfer and be transported to a school that is convenient to them. Public school has a liaison who assists homeless students and their families. This brochure also explains how families can seek legal help if a child’s school is not fulfilling these obligations.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Access to Education for Homeless Students Living in Temporary Housing
This information is also available in Spanish: Acceso a la Educación por Alumnos Sin Casa y Alumnos que Están Viviendo en Viviendas Temporales
Special Education: Know Your Rights
If you think your child has learning problems, you may ask the school to test your child for special education. This flyer outlines some of the rights you and your child have. They include the right to request an individualized education plan (IEP) meeting at any time, extra rights and protections for suspensions and expulsions, and your right to request a re-evaluation of your child once a year.
More information is available in English and Spanish at: Special Education: Know Your Rights/Educación Especial: Conozca sus Derechos.
Is Your Child having Problems at School?
Is your school not responding to your concerns? Does your child need special education? Has your child been suspended or expelled? Legal Aid may be able to help.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Is Your Child having Problems at School?
This brochure is also available in Spanish at: Tiene su Niño(a) Problemas en la Escuela?
Worker Rights and Benefits: What do I need to know about remote schooling and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
I am receiving traditional unemployment compensation but need to stay home to take care of my child while they return to school remotely. Can I refuse to return to work or refuse job offers?
No. Under traditional unemployment compensation you must accept job offers for suitable work. Traditional unemployment is meant to cover the worker, not the worker’s family. However, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits and can open an application for PUA.
My child is attending school remotely and I need to remain home to care for them. Could I be eligible for PUA if I leave my job or refuse to return to work?
Yes. If you are the primary caregiver of your child and your employer does not give you the option for paid leave or telework (work from home), you can receive PUA.
What if I can telework or receive offers to telework but my child needs so much help with remote school, I am unable to work. Could I be eligible for PUA?
Yes. If you are the primary caregiver of your child, are unable/unavailable to work because you need to assist your child with remote schooling, and are not receiving paid leave or telework pay, you can receive PUA benefits for every week that online schooling is in session.
My child is attending school through a “hybrid model” (some days in school, some days remotely) and I need to remain home to care for them. Could I be eligible for PUA if I leave my job or refuse to return to work?
Yes. If you are primary caregiver of your child and are not receiving paid leave or telework pay you can receive PUA benefits.
My child is attending school through a “hybrid model” and I need to remain home to care for them on the days they attending school remotely. I am still working a reduced schedule on the days my child is in school. Could I receive PUA benefits?
Yes. You can receive PUA benefits, but you must report all wages earned each week. Your PUA benefit payment will be reduced based on the amount of wages you earn each week.
My child’s school is allowing students to choose to attend in-person or remotely. I do not feel comfortable sending my child to in-person classes and will choose to have my child attend school remotely. I am the primary caregiver and will not be able to work with my child attending school remotely. Could I be eligible for PUA benefits?
Maybe. If you meet one or more of the PUA eligibility criteria, such as being advised by a health care professional to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19, then you may be eligible for PUA benefits. If you do not meet any of the listed criteria and choose to keep your child at home, you would not be eligible for PUA benefits.
Who qualifies as a “primary caregiver?”
A primary caregiver is the person who is most responsible for caring for the child or children in the home. That can be a mother, father, or other family member within the household. If you typically work full time and another member of your household has the primary responsibility of caring for children in your household, then you are not the primary caregiver.
What is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)?
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a new education law. It replaces the No Child Left Behind Act. President Obama signed this new law on December 10, 2015. ESSA gives state and local governments more control over education in their communities. The goal of ESSA is to create more opportunities for all students, close achievement gaps, improve teaching quality, and reach better outcomes for students.
The U.S. Department of Education and Ohio are working together to create a plan for how ESSA will work here. Ohio’s plan must address help for struggling schools, standards and testing, and school and district accountability. Ohio has the 2016-2017 school year to create this plan. Ohio’s plan is set to start in the 2017-2018 school year.
ESSA requires states to continue to follow the McKinney-Vento Act. This helps students stay in school if their family loses housing. Students who become homeless may either stay in their home school or attend the school closest to where they are temporarily living. Students who are homeless can also receive transportation to help them stay in school. ESSA increases the duties of the school district liaison. This person helps families that become homeless access services.
ESSA also protects children in foster care from having to move schools when they enter foster care or change foster homes. If it is in the child’s best interest to stay in his or her home school, the child has a right to transportation to that school. If it is not in the child’s best interest to stay in the same school, ESSA requires the child to be enrolled immediately in a new school.
Ohio is working to develop its plan. The Ohio Department of Education expects to have a draft plan open for public comments by the end of 2016. More information about ESSA in Ohio can be found at http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Every-Student-Succeeds-Act-ESSA.
By Jessica Baaklini
What are my options if I was an ITT Tech or Regency Beauty School student?
Did you recently take classes at ITT Tech or Regency Beauty School? These two schools closed down in September 2016. The unexpected shut-downs left many students stranded. If you were stranded, ask yourself two questions. Do you want to keep studying in the same field? Or do you want to get rid of your student loans?
If you want to keep studying, you can transfer your credits to another school and continue taking classes there. If you transfer your credits, you will have to keep paying the student loans you took out at ITT Tech or Regency.
Be sure to research the school you are thinking of transferring to. For instance, is the school licensed? Does it successfully place graduates in the field you are studying? The Ohio State Board of Career Colleges and Schools has a list of schools that will accept transfer credits at http://scr.ohio.gov/. You can also call the State Board at 614-466-2752 for more information.
If you would rather get rid of your student loans, you can apply for a “closed school loan discharge.” A loan discharge means your federal loans will be cancelled. You will not have to pay the loans back. In fact, if you already started making payments, you will get your money back. However, if you get the loan discharge, you will not be able to keep your credits from ITT Tech or Regency.
Only recent ITT Tech and Regency Beauty School students can get these benefits, so how do you know if you are eligible? You are eligible if you were you enrolled at either ITT Tech or Regency when they closed in September 2016. You are also eligible if you withdrew from ITT Tech after May 6, 2016, or withdrew from Regency after May 31, 2016.
For more information about a closed school loan discharge, you can contact Legal Aid. You can also read more from the Department of Education at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repayloans/forgiveness-cancellation/closed-school. Or you can call the Department of Education at 1-800-433-3243.
What if you took out loans from a private bank rather than the federal government? Private loans cannot be discharged in the same way. If you have private loans, you will have to contact your lender to find out your options.
The closure of ITT Tech and Regency Beauty Schools may have been unexpected, but you have the option to either continue your education or get out of debt!
By Rebecca Maurer
How can I get my child extra support in school?
A pre-school, elementary or high school student with a disability may need extra support in school. Some disabilities keep students from participating in school in the same way as other students, like deafness or being unable to walk. Other disabilities, like dyslexia or low IQ, may keep a child from learning in the same way as other students. Disabilities such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiance Disorder may keep a child from controlling their behaviors. Children with disruptive behaviors may miss a lot of class time or have trouble paying attention in class.
If a student can learn the same way as other students, but is not succeeding in school, that student may need accommodations. Examples of accommodations are a wheelchair ramp, a sign language interpreter, and extra breaks for a student with ADHD. Accommodations should be recorded in a 504 Plan.
If a student is not learning in school, the school should try interventions. Interventions may include tutoring or a special reading group. If interventions do not help, a student with a disability may need an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP records the plan for helping a child meet goals specific to that student. Examples of IEP goals are learning math facts, improving speech skills, and developing coping skills.
Both a 504 Plan and IEP are legal documents created by a team at the school that must include the parent. If a school does not follow a 504 Plan or IEP, a parent can file a complaint.
A parent can request that a 504 Plan or IEP be created for a child by writing a letter to the school. Date the letter and state that the child has a disability which contributes to struggles in school. Give the letter to the school district office but be sure to keep an additional copy of the letter. If the school does not respond or denies the request, contact the Ohio Department of Education at 1-877-644-6338. For more information about requesting special education, see https://lasclev.org/i-think-my-child-needs-special-education-classes-what-is-the-process/
This article was written by Danielle Gadomski Littleton and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
What rights do college students with disabilities have?
College students with a disability have certain rights as they continue with their education after high school. It is important to know that if you had an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in high school, your IEP does not go with you to college. Instead of providing special education to students with disabilities, colleges must make sure that students with disabilities are treated fairly.
Colleges cannot discriminate against students with disabilities. There are federal and state laws that stop schools from doing this. These laws protect students with disabilities from being denied admission to a school because of a disability or being discriminated against by the school they attend.
Once a student with a disability starts college, these schools must provide academic accommodations and support based on the student’s needs. Some examples of this help may include books on tape, note takers, readers, extra time for tests, or special computer tools. However, these schools do not have to provide students with personal equipment such as wheelchairs.
The steps a student must take to get these services depends on the school. First, a student must tell the school about the disability if requesting services. Contact the school’s office for students with disabilities, or ask an adviser where to start.
Students who experience discrimination because of a disability should contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The phone number in Ohio is 216-522-4970. Complaints can also be filled out online at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html
This article was written by Katie Feldman and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
My child is learning English – what are his/her rights under federal law?
English learner students have a right to equal access to high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve full academic potential. New guidance issued in January by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice remind states, districts, and schools of their obligations under federal law. Fact Sheets published in English and other languages help inform the community about these rights and responsibilities. Follow the links below for more information and please share widely.
US Department of Education press release
“Dear Colleague Letter” providing joint guidance to states, districts and schools in meeting their obligation to ensure English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in educational programs and services.
- A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in school.
- A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to communicate information to limited English proficient parents in a language they can understand.
- A toolkit to help school districts identify English learner students, prepared by the Education Department’s Office of English Language Acquisition. This is the first chapter in a series of chapters to help state education agencies and school districts meet their obligations to English learner students.
What should I know about student loans?
Student loans give needed financial assistance to people who want to attend college but can’t afford it. Many colleges and universities offer many student loan options. The information in this article will help people when making important decisions about where to go to school and how to pay for it.
Choose a College Carefully. There are three different types of colleges and universities to choose from:
- Public colleges and universities (eg. Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State University)
- Non-profit colleges and universities (eg. Baldwin Wallace University)
- For-profit or “proprietary” schools (eg. Lincoln College of Technology)
In general, Ohio’s public universities have the cheapest tuition for Ohio residents. For example, one semester tuition at Tri-C in an associate degree program costs as little as $1,200, and one semester tuition at Cleveland State University in a bachelor’s degree program costs about $4,700. In contrast, one semester tuition at Lincoln College of Technology in an associate degree program costs as much as $13,200.
Choose a Loan Carefully: There are two basic types of student loans: federal and private. Federal loans are regulated by the U.S. Department of Education, which sets the terms and limits the interest rates. Private loans come from private lenders who set their own terms and interest rates. Before signing any loan contract, compare loan offers from different lenders because some loans are more expensive than others. Always ask lenders the following questions:
- How much money are you lending me?
- What is the interest rate?
- When will interest start to “accrue” (build up)?
- When do I have to start paying the loan back?
- How much will my monthly payments be?
- What kinds of repayment plans are available for this loan?
One advantage of federal student loans is the option for an income-based repayment (IBR) plan for borrowers who have a financial hardship. Under IBR plans, monthly payments are limited based on the borrower’s income.
Remember, student loans must be repaid, even if the student does not graduate, cannot find a job, or was unhappy with the school. Student loans are not automatically discharged in bankruptcy.
For more information on student loans, visit the U.S. Department of Education website, www.ed.gov. Another helpful website is www.studentloanborrowerassistance.org, which comes from the National Consumer Law Center.
If you have problems with federal student loans, contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group at www.ombudsman.ed.gov. If you have problems with private student loans, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Private Student Loan Ombudsman at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint (click on “Student Loan”).
IMPORTANT: Avoid Scholarship Scams! Many colleges and universities have limited scholarships, or money that does not need to be paid back. Find out how to apply for scholarships on a school’s website or by contacting the financial aid office.
Beware! Some companies claim to offer “scholarships,” but they are actually trying to steal your cash, credit card number, or bank account number. Ways to protect yourself are:
- Never give your credit card or bank account number to “hold” a scholarship “” this is a scam! Real scholarships do not ask for credit card or bank account numbers.
- Real scholarships are free. If you have to pay money to apply, the scholarship is a scam.
- If someone calls and says you were “selected” for a scholarship, but you never applied for any scholarship, this is a scam! Hang up the phone and do not provide any personal financial information.
 Cuyahoga Community College, Tuition & Payment Schedule for 2013-2014 Academic Year, available at http://www.tri-c.edu/payingforcollege/Pages/TuitionPaymentSchedule.aspx. The cost is about $1,200 for Cuyahoga County residents and about $1,500 for other Ohio residents.
 Cleveland State University, Tuition and Fees 2013-2014, available at http://www.csuohio.edu/treasury-services/tuition-and-fees.
 Lincoln College of Technology, Net Price Calculator, available at http://www.lincolnedu.com/net-price-calculator.
This article was written by Legal Aid Managing Attorney Julie Robie and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
What is a homeless student and what are their rights in school?
Too many children in Ohio are homeless. A special law, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, gives homeless students in public or charter schools special help.
Homeless: This law broadly defines who is homeless to include:
- students who live in a shelter, in a car, or on the street,
- students doubling up with family or friends or who couch surf, and
- students living in a home with problems like bugs, mold, leaks, etc.
Enrollment: Homeless students do not always have access to important papers like birth records. This can cause a problem when enrolling the student in school. This law helps students enroll in a public or charter school even if they do not have all the things normally required to enroll, like birth records, shot records, or utility bills.
Transportation: Homeless students frequently change schools and miss days of school when they change. When staying at the same school is best for the student, this law makes public and charter schools provide transportation to keep the student at her last school. The school must provide transportation even if the student no longer stays close to that school or even if the student is outside the school district.
Liaison: Every public and charter school has to have a person in charge of finding and helping homeless students. The person is often called a homeless liaison and sometimes works in the pupil services office. If you need help for your homeless student, ask the school or district who the homeless liaison is. If additional help is needed, call Tom Dannis from the Ohio Department of Education at 614-466-4161. For more information, see also the Legal Aid brochure, “Access to Education for Homeless Students” at http://lasclev.org/accesstoeducationbrochure/.
This article was written by Legal Aid Senior Attorney Megan Sprecher and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
Is it possible to get rid of my student loan debt?
Federal law allows specific categories of borrowers to get a discharge (cancellation) on their student loans. You must fit within one of the categories listed below:
- You did not have a high school diploma or GED at the time of enrollment. The student loan must be from 1986 or later.
- The school closed while you were enrolled or within 90 days of when you withdrew from the school. The student loan must be from 1986 or later.
- You did not complete the program, and the school did not properly return part of the loan to the lender. The student loan must be from 1986 or later.
- You had a status or condition at the time of enrollment that was a legal barrier to employment in the field. The student loan must be from 1986 or later.
- You were in a security guard program, but had a felony criminal record.
- You were in a nursing assistant or custodial maintenance program, but you had a physical or mental disability that prevented you from working in those fields.
- You did not have a high school diploma AND a high school diploma is necessary to take a license or certification exam that is required for the job.
- The borrower is now deceased or totally and permanently disabled.
- The borrower’s signature on the loan application was forged.
If you fit into one of these categories, you can begin the process of discharging your loan at the U.S. Department of Education website.
If you do not fall into one of these categories, you are not eligible for a discharge on your student loan. You must contact your lender to determine what options you have for payment. In circumstances of extreme financial hardship, a student loan may be discharged through bankruptcy.
What are Education Rights during COVID-19?
Education: What Do I Need to Know About School During COVID-19?
When will schools reopen?
Schools are closed through May 1. They might not reopen this school year.
Will my student be able to graduate this year?
Students can graduate if they were on track to graduate before the schools closed. Schools will be deciding on a case by case basis if your student was on track to graduate. You should talk to your child’s teacher or principal about your school’s process for deciding who will graduate.
My student didn’t pass the third grade reading test. Will they have to stay behind?
Schools are not doing any more reading testing this year. Students will not be held back based on their scores when the schools closed. The child’s principal and teacher will make the recommendation whether the child has enough reading skills to move on to the fourth grade. You should talk to your child’s teacher or principal about your school’s process for making this decision.
Are internet or computer-based schools closed?
No. Online schools are still open.
Does a school have to provide educational services during the temporary school closure?
Schools have to give students a certain amount of education hours per year. To find out what your student should get in a normal school year, click here. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis, this year schools are allowed to provide online instruction or packets available on their websites instead of meeting these hours.
What educational services are the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) providing during the school closure?
CMSD is providing packets for each grade level. The packets can be picked up at the meal distribution sites or downloaded from http://www.clevelandmetroschools.org/LearningOpportunities.
You can print the materials for free at any Staples location. There is a limit of 50 pages of free printing per day. Hopefully more information will be available soon about how CMSD students with disabilities will receive instruction during the school closure.
Are schools still serving meals?
All schools may continue to serve meals to school age children even while closed because of COVID 19. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is providing lunch and a breakfast for all children under 18 at 22 schools. For more information, visit: https://www.clevelandmetroschools.org/cms/lib/OH01915844/Centricity/domain/6622/other/CMSD_SN-GrabnGo_Flier.pdf
Where can I go for more information about the school closure and resources for my child?
The Ohio Department of Education is updating Frequently Asked Questions here: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Student-Supports/Coronavirus/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Governor-DeWine%E2%80%99s-Scho
The Cleveland Metropolitan School district is posting updates here: https://www.clevelandmetroschools.org/LearningOpportunities
Your school or school district may be posting updates on their website or have information available when you call the district’s phone number.
Education: What Are Schools Doing for Students with Disabilities During COVID-19?
My student has a disability. What can I do to make sure my student is getting the right services while school is closed?
Contact the school district’s special education director, your child’s teacher, or building principal to ask for work at your child’s ability level and tips on how to help them with the work.
Write down the dates to track your requests for services, and the responses to such requests. Keep track of how you got the communication. Was it by telephone? Email? Letter? Did the school talk to you in a language you can understand?
Keep track how many minutes of services your child is receiving to help determine whether any services need to be made up when schools reopen.
My student has a 504 Plan or IEP. If a school provides educational services, what do they have to do to meet needs for students with disabilities?
If the school is providing education to students, it must include students with disabilities. The school has to do its best to give the same services to students with disabilities.
My child with an IEP is falling behind. Is there any extra help available?
You may qualify for funds to pay for in-person tutoring, or other learning supports with Learning Aid Ohio if your child is:
- learning remotely full time (not hybrid)
- has an IEP for the 2020-2021 school year, and
- your family is low-income or experiencing financial hardship.
Up to $1,500 per family per school quarter is available to pay for these additional supports for your child.
For more information, visit: https://www.learningohio.com/
What if a school can’t meet the needs of my student with a 504 Plan or IEP?
When schools reopen, the child’s IEP team should meet to consider what services the child missed out on and how they can be made up to the child. Parents should keep track of what their students are missing.
Can I request an IEP meeting during the school closure?
Yes. Many schools are holding IEP meetings on the phone or through video conferences. Some schools have not yet set up ways to hold meetings by phone or video. However, parents or guardians still have the right to request a meeting.
Can I request an evaluation for special education services during the school closure?
Yes. The school has 30 days to respond to your request. They can either tell you in writing why they don’t think there is a disability, or they can get your permission to evaluate. Many evaluations require in person testing, so the evaluation may be delayed until in person testing is safe.
Where can I find more information about special education services during COVID-19?
The Ohio Department of Education has released a document to help school districts provide special education services to students with disabilities. The document addresses specific requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and speaks to the most frequently asked questions that have emerged during the state’s ordered school-building closure. The document can be found here.
For more information about the service for students with disabilities see the FAQs on the Disability Rights Ohio webpage: https://www.disabilityrightsohio.org/covid-education
My child has an IEP but I do not get regular reports. What can I do?
A child getting special education at a public or charter school has an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This IEP is written at least once a year and lists goals for the child in their areas of need. An IEP Progress Report, talking about the child’s progress on each goal, must be mailed to the child’s caregiver regularly. The child’s IEP will say how often the IEP Progress Reports must be mailed.
Legal Aid recently filed a complaint against the Cleveland Metropolitan School District because caregivers of children with IEPs were not getting IEP Progress Reports as often as they should. The Ohio Department of Education told the school district it must regularly send IEP Progress Reports to caregivers of students getting special education.
If your child has an IEP and you are not getting regular IEP Progress Reports, you should talk to your child’s teacher and/or principal. If that does not help, you may file a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education. You may get the complaint form at their website, www.education.ohio.gov, or by calling Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777.
This article was written by Legal Aid volunteer Kolie Erokwu and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
I think my child needs special education classes. What is the process?
Getting special education for a child requires a team effort by parents or guardians (“caregivers”), teachers and the school district. Both public and charter schools must provide special education to students with disabilities who need help learning in school. A caregiver should take the following steps when seeking special education services:
1. Ask for an Evaluation
If you think a child needs special education, write a letter to the principal asking to figure out if the child has a disability. Write the date and explain the child’s problems in school with learning, paying attention or acting out. Keep a copy of the letter. If the child has a medical condition, think about including a letter or document from the child’s doctor. The school has 30 days to answer a caregiver’s letter in writing and say whether or not it will test the child.
2. School Agrees to Test Your Child
If the school district agrees a child may have a disability, they will ask the caregiver to sign a consent form. The evaluation may only start after the school receives the signed forms and permission to test. The school must finish the testing within 60 days of consent. After the evaluation is done, the school must meet with the caregiver to talk about the testing and decide if the child needs special education.
3. School Will Note Test Your Child
If the school tells a caregiver that the child will not be tested, and the caregiver disagrees with the decision, s/he has options to appeal. It is a good idea to ask for help with an appeal. The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is able to help in some of these cases.
4. Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
Children found to need special education services will have an IEP with the school. The IEP services can include things like help with math or reading, plans for addressing behavior problems, speech, language, or occupational therapy, and other services to help children learn. The services are free to families, and can be provided in school or in the home.
5. Signing Forms
If at any time the school asks a caregiver to sign a document and the person does not agree with the document, either (1) do not sign it or (2) write on the document to indicate disagreement.
Additional information about special education is available from the Ohio Department of Education at: 614-466-2650 or 877-644-6338 (toll free). If you need help with a special education problem, please call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to find out if you are eligible for assistance.
This article was written by Legal Aid volunteer Kolie Erokwu and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
What should I do if my child is being bullied at school?
Too often, the news reports stories about kids being bullied at school. In Ohio, there is a law that tells schools what they must do to protect their students from bullying. “Bullying” refers to any written, spoken, or physical acts that are threatening or abusive to another student and happens more than once. Parents and caregivers need to know what schools should be doing and what they can do to help their children.
Every school district in Ohio must have an anti-bullying policy. A copy of the district’s policy should be available from the school. The anti-bullying policy covers any acts of bullying at school, on the school bus, or at any school event. It also includes acts of electronic bullying such as bullying through the internet or by cell phone.
The policy will tell parents and students how to report bullying. Reports should be made in writing to the school. This letter should include enough information about the problem so the school can investigate. Put the date on the letter and make a copy to keep before giving it to the school. On your copy, write down the name of the person you gave the letter to at the school. School staff must also report any bullying they know about at school.
Once the school learns about a bullying problem, the school must investigate the bullying. When the investigation is complete, the school should make a plan to keep the student safe who is being bullied.
If the school does not adequately respond to the bullying report, you can contact the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, to decide if a complaint against the school should be made. Their phone number is 216-522-4970. In order to make a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, the bullying must be related to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. For more information, see also the Legal Aid brochure “Bullying in Ohio Schools” at https://lasclev.org/bullyinginschoolsbrochure/.
This article was written by Legal Aid Staff Attorney Katie Feldman and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
My child has an IEP, but she is still having problems in school. Do I need to have the IEP changed?
If your child is still having problems in school, the school may not be following the IEP or your child’s needs may have changed.
- You can request an IEP meeting at any time.
- Your child must be re-evaluated every three years.
- IEP’s must be reviewed by the IEP team once every year.
*If your child is on an IEP he or she has extra rights and protections for suspensions and expulsions.
**If your son or daughter is on an IEP and has been removed from school for more than 10 days total in any school year, the school must hold a Manifestation Determination Review hearing before that child can be removed from school. If a child on an IEP is removed from school then he or she is still entitled to receive an education, usually in the form of home instruction.
School Discipline: Know your Rights – School Expulsions
Pro se Forms
Glossary of Education Terms
You may be able to find an attorney who can help you by contacting:
Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
Lawyer Referral Service
I believe my child needs Special Education Services, such as an IEP, what should I do?
If you believe your child needs special services in school because of a physical, learning or emotional disability, you can request the school evaluate your child. Schools are obligated by law to identify and provide services to students who have disabilities that affect their learning in school. Be sure to:
- Put the request in writing. Put the date on the letter and keep a copy for your records.
- Keep all letters from the school.
- Attach any letters or evaluations to the request from your child’s doctor regarding a medical diagnosis.
- Keep copies of all important documents such as disciplinary notices and report cards.
- Write down a summary of all telephone calls you make, voice mail messages you leave and meetings you have.
- Do not sign anything you do not understand or do not agree with.
If your school will not test your child, talk to a lawyer about it.
You may be able to find an attorney who can help you by contacting:
Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
Lawyer Referral Service
Path Cleared for Family, Access to Education Secured
Rematha Grayson first noticed her daughter’s problems with focus and reading in kindergarten. She asked the school for help and they offered to monitor Makayla. Between first and second grade, young Makayla switched school buildings. This change caused a lack of continuity and a confusing paper trail. While the school continued to “monitor,” Makayla continued to have behavioral challenges in school and continued to fall behind.
Makayla has several medical conditions, including asthma, sleep apnea, allergies and eczema. She is up during the night and her medication makes her sleepy. Robert Needlman, her MetroHealth pediatrician, thought her medical issues indicated that she had special needs.
Ms. Grayson requested the school district evaluate her daughter. She made this request for three years, but no action was taken. Then the school told her Makayla was not ready for fourth grade.
Needlman wrote to the school requesting a full special education evaluation. When the school district didn’t reply, the pediatrician referred the family to a Legal Aid lawyer who is part of the team at MetroHealth, Danielle Gadomski Littleton. Before they received the attorney’s request, the school did initiate a full evaluation, but Ms. Gadomski Littleton was now watching the results.
The tests showed Makayla qualified for special education services. Ms. Gadomski Littleton requested compensatory education and the school agreed to provide two summers at The Help Foundation.
Thanks to her Legal Aid lawyer, Makayla is now thriving in school – and has the protection of a
plan for services that will help her graduate and succeed in life.