Rights For Youth With Disabilities

What if I have a disability or I think I may have a disability in school? 

You have the right to be evaluated by the school district to see if you have a disability that requires extra supports in school, and you have a right to receive services and accommodations if it is determined you have a disability and need extra support. 

What are services and accommodations? 

Services and accommodations are extra supports to help you learn and do well in school. Examples of services could be speech therapy or school counseling. 

A picture of an adorable blue cartoon pit bull named Scrappy.

SCRAPPY TIP: Examples of accommodations are extra time on tests or getting a break pass.

What is IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is federal law that makes sure that children with disabilities have the right to a free and appropriate public education. This law also makes sure that special services are available for the children with disabilities if they need them. This includes children in foster care with disabilities.

What types of disabilities does IDEA apply to?

IDEA covers 13 different categories of disabilities, including:

  • autism
  • deaf-blindness
  • deafness
  • emotional disturbance
  • hearing impairment
  • intellectual disability
  • multiple disabilities
  • orthopedic impairment
  • other health impairment
  • specific learning disability
  • speech or language impairment
  • traumatic brain injury,
  • visual impairment including blindess

Some examples of disabilities in these categories that you may be able to get services for are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder, depression, dyslexia, and brain injury caused by an accident or some kind of physical force.

A picture of an adorable blue cartoon pit bull named Scrappy.

SCRAPPY TIP: Tell a trusted adult if you are having trouble in school.

What other laws can help me in school if I have a disability?

Section 504 is part of a federal civil rights law known as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which protects students with disabilities from discrimination and makes sure they have access to get an education. [3] Under this law, schools cannot keep you from facilities, programs, benefits, activities, or services if you have a disability if these things are provided to students without disabilities.  Schools must make sure that all students receive equal access to education.

What types of disabilities does Section 504 apply to?

Section 504 covers a lot of disabilities and covers more than IDEA does. It protects any student who has: (a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially (or seriously) limits one or more life activities; (b) has a record of such impairment; or (3) is considered to have such an impairment.  Whether a student has a disability under Section 504 is determined on a case-by-case basis. 

What are life activities?

Life activities can include everyday activities like eating, sleeping, standing, and walking.  But they can also include learning, concentrating, thinking, reading, and communicating. Some examples of disabilities covered by Section 504 are ADHD, PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorder.

What is a Section 504 plan?

In general, a Section 504 plan describes the accommodations a student needs in school. An appropriate education for a student with a disability under Section 504 could be education in regular classrooms, education in regular classes with accommodations, and/or special education and related services.

What are some examples of accommodations in 504 plans?

Some examples include: seating in a certain area; extra time on tests and assignments; behavior management support; adjusted class schedules or grading; verbal testing; note takers; and verbal, visual, or technology aids.

If I have a disability but do not need special education services, can I still get services under Section 504?

Yes, you may be able to get Section 504 services.  The school must determine whether you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, such as the ability to learn or concentrate. For example, you may need accommodations in the regular classroom, such as special seating or extended time on tests.

What if I think I have a disability but am not getting any extra help?

 The law requires that all children with disabilities who need special services or accommodations are identified and evaluated. If you are having difficulty in school (emotionally, behaviorally, trouble concentrating) and you feel like the work is really hard to do, you may have a disability and may need accommodations or special services.

You, your parent, or a surrogate parent can contact your teacher or school staff and ask for you to be evaluated. This must be done in writing.  If you need a surrogate parent, ask that one be appointed by the court or the school district.  A teacher or another school staff may also ask for you to be evaluated to see if you have a disability. 

If you are in foster care and do not live with your parent, the school district does not have to get informed consent from a parent before doing an evaluation to see if you have a disability if:

  1. The school district tried to find your parent but couldn’t;
  2. Your parent’s rights have been terminated; or
  3. A surrogate parent already has consented for an evaluation.

Can I be evaluated for a 504 plan and an IEP?

Yes, if you think you have a disability, you can be evaluated for a 504 plan and for an IEP under IDEA.

What if the school says that I need a medical assessment?  Do I have to pay for that?

If the school thinks that you need a medical assessment to see if you have a disability covered under Section 504, the school must make sure that the assessment is free for you.

How much time does the school have to complete the first evaluation for an IEP?

60 days.

What happens after my evaluation?

After your evaluation the school has a meeting to decide if you qualify for special services and support. If you qualify, then you will meet with your parent or surrogate parent and the school team (called the Individual Education Plan (IEP) team) to complete an Individual Education Plan and see which special services, support, and interventions you need to meet your goals.  The Individual Education Plan team will track your progress and make a new plan for you at least once every year. If it is determined that you need a 504 plan, one will be created.

I have an IEP or a 504 plan and I am still struggling in school.  What can I do?

If you already have an IEP or 504 plan, but are still struggling in school, you may need more evaluations or extra support. IEPs and 504 plans must be re-evaluated periodically.

For example, if you have an IEP for emotional behavioral disability but are still acting out in school, you may need an updated functional behavioral assessment (FBA) which is an exam to figure out why you behave the way that you do. Your IEP team can create a positive behavioral intervention plan to help control those behaviors.

If you think that the school has discriminated against you by not providing accommodations in a 504 plan, your parent or surrogate parent can: (1) file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education, (2) go to mediation, or (3) ask for a due process hearing.

If you disagree with decisions made about an IEP, your parent or surrogate parent can: (1) go to mediation, (2) ask for a due process hearing, or (3) file a complaint HERE

The Law

Fla. Admin. Code 6A-6.0031, 6A-6.03311, 6A-6.03312, Fla. Stat. Sec. 39.0016, 34 C.F.R. Sec. 104.33, 104.35, 300.8, 300.111, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 705, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12102

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