Educational Support

Educational Rights

Federal and state laws govern educational rights for families and children. The laws that apply to your child depend, in part, on where your child is receiving educational services (public school, public charter or cyber school, private or parochial schools, home schooled).

Federal Law

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA), also known as IDEA 2004

If your child has a disability and is in need of specially designed instruction, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) outlines your rights.  IDEIA specifies how school districts:

  • Identify and evaluate children suspected of having special education needs, using a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) evaluation.  Parents, legal guardians or foster parents are a part of this team.
  • Work with families to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for the child.  The IEP may include individualized goals, supports, accommodations and related services such as therapies, behavior plans, assistive technology, and transportation, to name only a few.
  • Ensure that preschool Early Intervention programs and school-age programs are available

IDEIA also gives students with special education needs a right to:

  • A free and appropriate public education (FAPE) and to make meaningful progress through their curriculum;
  • Dispute decisions made by their school district about a child’s educational program, and to access a system of due process to help resolve those disputes.

Section 504 of The Rehabilitation act of 1973

This law provides tools and guidelines for students with special needs in public schools who do not qualify for specially designed instruction, but still require support services. It was the first civil rights legislation for individuals with disabilities. It prohibits any entity that receives federal funds, including public schools, from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their disabilities.

Some children have physical or mental conditions that substantially limit major life activities yet do not qualify them for formal special education. Under Section 504, such children are considered “protected handicapped students” and are entitled to services, accommodations, and modifications that help them participate fully in regular education programs, extracurricular activities, clubs and field trips. For these students, the district may create a Section 504 “service plan” instead of an IEP. 

Similar to IDEIA, parents and students have procedural safeguards under Section 504, and the right to a free and appropriate public education.

Chapter 14 and Chapter 15 of the Pennsylvania School Codep

Chapter 14 contains the state’s regulations for implementing the IDEIA and includes some additional provisions for Pennsylvania, such as limitations on the use of physical restraint. Chapter 14 also outlines Procedural Safeguards to protect your child if there is disagreement about services.  For a copy of Procedural Safeguards, visit

Chapter 15 contains the state’s regulation for implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to assure students with disabilities have equal opportunity. Services and accommodations that may be included in a Chapter 15 (or Section 504) service plan may include transportation, equipment, building modifications, medication administration, and adjustment of school schedule or assignments to meet the student’s disability. 

Chapter 711 of the Pennsylvania School Code

Chapter 711 of the Pennsylvania School Code addresses “Charter School and Cyber Charter School Services and Programs for Children with Disabilities.”  It contains the regulations to ensure that charter and cyber charter schools comply with IDEIA and Section 504.  Charter schools are exempt from Chapter 14 regulations, but have a separate obligation to serve children with special needs as spelled out in Chapter 711. 

For more information about charter and cyber schools, see Placement Options and School Types in this section of the Guide.  

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

This law, passed in 1990, is a federal anti-discrimination law that provides rights for citizens with disabilities.  The act requires public places and commercial facilities, such as public schools, to be physically accessible.  It prohibits discrimination in employment and in services provided by state and local governments, including public education.  ADA guarantees that students with disabilities can access to the full range of program options available to students without disabilities.