I have seen a disturbing trend in public schools. Though I am at a loss to explain why some public schools are laboring under the misconception that their after-school programs are exempt from accommodation requirements for disabled students. Administrators are informing parents that their student’s IEP doesn’t carry over to the after school program. That is somewhat true but highly debatable.
What is not debatable, however, is federal ADA law. Section 504 of that law applies specifically to the educational setting. It states that child care programs (including after-school programs in public schools) are prohibited from discriminating against a child with a disability by denying admission into the program or by denying requests for reasonable accommodations. Individual states have additional variances supporting this law but ADA is the federal guideline. It’s non-negotiable.
So, what should you do if your child is not receiving accommodations, has been refused entry into the program or been booted from it? First, send a letter to the principal, superintendent and school board members advising that you are invoking your child’s rights under section 504 of the American with Disabilities Act. Then clearly define what accommodations you are seeking for your child. Provide a date (I suggest a couple of weeks so they have the opportunity to get with their attorney) in which they must respond to your request. Also, make it clear that you will only accept their response in writing. If you are having to go this far to secure your child’s rights nothing they verbalize should be trusted and if you have to pursue it further proof in writing is worth its weight in gold.
If for some crazy reason they still do not relent, your next step should be a letter to the state board of education. Be certain to include a copy of the letter you sent to your local board of education. Since you can likely email them I would allow only a week for them to respond.
If all attempts have failed it’s time to call in the big guns, so-to-speak. ADA will fight for the rights of your child at zero cost to you. You will not have to hire an attorney to go to battle because the war is already won. It’s just the little generals on the ground who haven’t fully understood their role that cause the problem. You can file a discrimination complaint with ADA online. You will be required to jump through a lot of hoops, fill out mounds of paperwork and possibly pay to have papers notarized. But once that is done so are you. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy someone else caring enough to fight for your child.