Right to Compensatory Damages for Disability Discrimination

In March 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that parents are not required to exhaust administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) before seeking relief in the form of compensatory damages under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). 

 This fact sheet provides an analysis of that case, Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, and prior decisions addressing the right to damages for students with disabilities. 

MDJ Truancy Compliance Checklist

The purpose of Act 138 of 2016 is to improve attendance and deter truancy by consistently identifying and addressing attendance issues as early as possible with credible intervention techniques in order to preserve the unity of the family, avoid the loss of housing or entry of a child into foster care, or disruption of an intact family unit. This checklist identifies common issues that arise for MDJs who adjudicated truancy matters. 

You may also be interested in A Judge’s Guide to Attendance Barriers (Truancy) and Act 138 and a screening tool for use by MDJs and MDJ Screener To Address Truancy Referrals. 

School Transportation FAQs

Your child’s right to school transportation depends on the local policies adopted by your school district, the distance from your residence to the school, and whether your child has disabilities that require individualized transportation arrangements.
 You can learn more here. 

COVID Compensatory Services

Research shows that school-age children experienced significant learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This fact sheet explains the rights of students with disabilities to receive COVID compensatory services for the education, services, and supports they did not receive as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more here. 

Challenging Sex or Gender Based-Harassment at School: Student Rights and Complaint Options

Gender-based violence and sexual harassment are widespread problems in K-12 schools throughout the country and in Pennsylvania. For example, nearly half of students in grades 7-12 reported experiencing sexual harassment in the 2017-18 school year. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has found that K-12 students who experience hostile behaviors, including sexual harassment and assault, are more likely to experience depression and anxiety as well as decreased participation and achievement in school. Students have the right to be free from sex- or gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence at school. Learn more here. 

School Attendance and Truancy: Understanding the Basics

All students in Pennsylvania must attend school no later than age 6 until age 18 or graduation, whichever occurs sooner. In general, rules for attending school do not apply to youth under 18 who have a certificate of graduation from a regularly accredited, licensed, registered, or approved high school. Under the law, all students must attend school until their 18th birthday or graduation, whichever is sooner, unless they qualify for one of a few limited exceptions, as explained in this fact sheet. You can access the full guide here. 

How to File a Complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) is the commonwealth’s key antidiscrimination law. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) enforces this state law, which prohibits discrimination in schools on the basis of race, color, ancestry, disability, religion, national origin, family status, and sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation). The PHRA affords broad protections against racial, sex-based, and disability discrimination.  

 To learn more about the process for filing a discrimination complaint and your role in the complaint process, click here. 

Virtual School Programs and Cyber Charter Schools: What You Need to Know

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many students across Pennsylvania were exposed to “virtual learning” or “virtual school programs” for the first time. These are programs operated by a school district or charter school that offer an education program through computer-based or online programs and may also be referred to as “cyber” learning. 

 This fact sheet discusses district virtual school programs and cyber charter schools. To learn more, click here. 

Your Student’s Right to Compensatory Education

If your child with a disability has been denied needed educational services required by law, your student is entitled to make-up educational services, or compensatory education.

Compensatory education is meant to put a student in the same position they would be in if the school had provided appropriate special education and supports in the first place. Because of that, compensatory education is highly individualized and broadly flexible to the needs of your student.

To learn more about how to receive compensatory education for your child, click here.

Please note – this document is available in Spanish.

The Right to Be Free From Bullying and Harassment

All students have the right to be free from bullying and harassment in school ‒ whether it is verbal, written, graphic, physical, or online. All forms of bullying and harassment are not permitted and require your school to investigate and intervene to ensure that the bullying and harassment does not continue. The problem must be addressed promptly, as students who are bullied are at increased risk of experiencing health problems and academic struggles and are more likely to drop out of school.

To learn more, click here.

Please note – this document is available in Spanish and Chinese.

Preventing Suspension and Expulsion in Preschool Settings

This fact sheet applies to young children in all preschool settings in Pennsylvania, including child care and daycare centers, Early Intervention, Head Start, private academic schools (PDE-licensed preschools), and school district pre-kindergarten. If one of these school settings seeks to suspend or expel your child, here are some things you should know about your rights.

You can learn more about those rights here.

Please note – this document is available in Spanish.

Suspension and Expulsion Tool Kit

This toolkit was developed to assist families and advocates to respond to efforts to suspend or expel students. It applies to all public schools (including charter schools) in Pennsylvania. If a school district or charter school seeks to suspend or expel your child or send them to an alternative education for disruptive youth (AEDY) setting, you may find this toolkit helpful.

Learn more here.

Your Rights to Oppose Book Bans

Attempts to ban books are on the rise nationally, and Pennsylvania is no exception. This worrisome trend is already negatively impacting Pennsylvania students, who have less access to the diverse viewpoints and ideas expressed in the books being banned.

While school districts have the power to select and, in some cases, remove books from public schools, there are important limitations on a school board’s ability to ban books. There are also actions that students, parents, and community members can take to fight back against these harmful policies.

Learn more about these actions here.


The School Board: Its Power and How to Advocate

School boards play a pivotal role in shaping the education that public school students receive.

School boards are accountable to the residents of the district they serve and who elected them. This means they have a responsibility to keep the community informed and must make their decisions using input from the public and members of the school community.

Learn more about school boards and how to make your voice heard at school board meetings here.

Act 1: Supporting Graduation & Equal Access for Students Experiencing Homelessness, in Foster Care, or in the Juvenile Justice System

In January 2022, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted Act 1 of 2022 (Act 1) (24 P.S. § 13-1331.1), which seeks to remove educational and graduation barriers for students who experience “education instability” due to homelessness, foster care, involvement in the juvenile justice, or court-ordered placements. Act 1 of 2022 seeks to address these barriers and promote timely high school graduation and equal access to school engagement for these students.

You can learn more here.

Educational Rights of Students in the Juvenile Justice System

Children involved in the juvenile justice systems have the right to a free public education, like all public school students. These rights are not lost because of system involvement, and additional protections are in place to ensure access to a quality public education. Children and youth in the juvenile justice system may need strong advocates because they are among the most educationally underserved of all student populations. As a result of multiple school changes and placement in on-grounds schools, students who are system-involved often fall through the cracks.

This fact sheet highlights important protections and addresses ways to support students to be successful.

To learn more, click here.

Rights of LGBTQ, Nonbinary, or Gender-Nonconforming Students

Discrimination against LGBTQ people is illegal. Courts have increasingly recognized the rights of students who identify as gay or transgender, as well as students who are nonbinary or gender-nonconforming (sometimes referred to as “gender-expansive”). Students who are LGBTQ or gender-expansive have the same rights as other students, and schools are required to intervene and correct policies or practices that discriminate against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

You can learn more here.