Suspensions in Pennsylvania: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provides information for parents and guardians on the rules and procedures for student suspensions in all public schools, including charter schools, in Pennsylvania.

A suspension is an exclusion from school for one to ten school days in a row. Even a suspension for part of a day constitutes one day of suspension. A suspension may be imposed by a principal or other person in charge of a school.

If a school district or charter school seeks to suspend your child, you can learn more about what to do here.

Please note – this document is available in Spanish.

Graduation Requirements in Pennsylvania

Beginning with the graduating class of 2023, new statewide graduation requirements will apply to all public school students. As a result, every student must now satisfy one of several pathways to demonstrate postsecondary preparedness in order to receive a diploma.

Two of these options require a student to demonstrate proficiency or satisfactory completion of end-of-course Keystone Exams to satisfy the statewide graduation requirement.

You can read what all of the pathways are to meet the new requirements here.

Please note – this document is available in Spanish.

Act 110: Rights of Students Convicted or Adjudicated of Sexual Assault

This FAQ explains a law known as Act 110, which concerns students who are convicted or adjudicated delinquent of sexual assault. The law became effective on January 3, 2021, and does not apply to convictions or adjudications occurring prior to that effective date.

This state law was enacted to protect student survivors/victims of sexual assault, and it applies to all public schools. The law requires a student convicted or adjudicated delinquent of sexual assault against a student in the same school entity to be transferred to another school, placed in alternative education for disruptive youth, or expelled from the same school entity under certain circumstances.

You can learn more here.

Rights of Multilingual Caregivers to Enroll Children in School

This fact sheet addresses the rights of linguistically and culturally diverse parents and caregivers (defined by law as limited English proficient or “LEP”) who seek to enroll a child in school. A person is legally considered “limited English proficient” if the person’s primary language or languages are not English, and they do not read, speak, write, or understand English well. LEP individuals have the right to interpretation and translated documents in this process.

Learn more here.

Please note – this document is available in Spanish.

School Enrollment Guide for Public Schools

Every child of school age who is a resident of Pennsylvania has a right to public education. Making sure that your child enrolls and attends school is important for your child’s education and future. Moving through these four steps will help you enroll your child in a public school (including a charter school and cyber charter school) as soon as possible. Click here to learn how.

If a child is living with someone other than their parent, please see our school enrollment guide for a child living with someone other than their parents.

Please note – this document is available in Spanish.

Special note: During the pandemic, nearly all districts began offering “online enrollment” and some districts will continue to use this option during this school year. Several districts may also continue to offer virtual learning for students, particularly students with disabilities for the 2021-2022 school year. Under a newly enacted law, Act 66, some students may be repeating a grade this school year. While the timeline for selecting this option has passed, some local educational agencies are extending the deadline for selecting to repeat a year or permitting students with disabilities who aged out at 21 to remain in school during the 2021-2022 school year.

Promising Practices to Build Antiracist and Affirming Schools

Members of Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous communities have been leading efforts to build affirming school environments and culturally responsive and celebratory curriculum for decades. They have also been working to create community-based educational initiatives to expand learning opportunities. Across the state, many students, parents, educators, advocates, and community members are now focusing on making schools anti-racist and free from prejudice. These efforts are critical to ensuring a safe, supportive, respectful, and affirming learning environment for children of color.

You can learn more about these anti-racist initiatives here.

The Right to be Free from Racism at School

Students deserve affirming and safe school environments that celebrate them for who they are and provide robust opportunities to learn. Schools have a legal obligation to ensure that students are not denied opportunities, treated differently, discriminated against, or harassed because of their race, color, or national origin. Schools must have policies and procedures to prevent and address bullying and harassment based on race and must ensure equal opportunities for students of color.

Under federal and state laws as well as the U.S. Constitution and Pennsylvania’s Constitution, racial discrimination is illegal, and there is no place for it in our schools. Learn more here about your rights and what you can do if your child is facing racial discrimination in school.

New Tools (and a Webinar) to Support Students Experiencing Educational Instability

Act 1: New Tools to Support Students Experiencing Educational Instability

Pennsylvania students who experience “education instability” due to homelessness, involvement in the foster care or juvenile justice systems, or court-ordered placements, are entitled to additional support under a new law called Act 1 of 2022.  This law seeks to remove educational and graduation barriers for students who experience one or more school changes during a single school year. These students are often unable to fully participate in school and are unable to graduate on time due to lost or unrecognized credits or a student’s inability to take a course required by their last school.

Learn more about students’ rights under Act 1 here and review the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s interim guidance on Act 1 here.   You can also view a recorded webinar on implementing Act 1 co-produced by ELC and Juvenile Law Center.

If a student you are working with has experienced education instability, you can use the tools below to advocate on the student’s behalf:

Request Assignment of a Point of Contact: Under Act 1, students are assigned a Point-of-Conduct designated by the school the student currently attends. This Point of Contact ensures that all students are able to fully participate in school activities and provides additional support for high school students, including assessing credits, considering whether certain credits may be waived, and developing an individualized Graduation Plan.  Use this tool if the student has not been assigned a Point of Contact.

Request Credit Assessment and/or Graduation Plan: High school students receive special support under Act 1. These students must receive a credit assessment, a process through which a school must now award full or partial credit for all work satisfactorily completed in a prior school, including a residential placement. A current school can also waive credit requirements that pose a barrier to graduation for students. In addition, a Point of Contact must develop an individualized graduation plan for students who experience education instability.

If a student is unable to graduate through their current school, a Point of Contact can request a diploma from the prior school. A student may receive a diploma from their prior school if deemed ineligible to graduate from their current school following a credit and waiver assessment and the student meets the prior school’s graduation requirements after the assessment. Beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, students can also receive a state-wide Keystone Diploma. This option is only explored if a student cannot graduate from their current or prior school. A Keystone Diploma has the same force as a school-issued high school diploma and is not the same as a GED.  Use this tool to request a credit assessment, credit waiver, graduation plan, or related request.

Request for Act 1 Graduation Support Retroactive to School Year 2021-2022: Act 1 eligible high school students are entitled to support to ensure that they can graduate on time. If a student was not identified during the 2021-2022 school year or was identified and was not provided with a pathway to on-time graduation, the school that the student last attended can identify a pathway to graduation during the 2022-2023 school year and issue a diploma retroactive to the 2021-2022 school year without requiring the student to complete additional work or attend classes.  

These students can also be graduated from a prior school, if graduating from the school they last attended is not possible. As a last resort, if a student cannot graduate from the school they last attended or a prior school, they are eligible for support to apply for a statewide Keystone diploma. A Keystone diploma has the same force as a school-issued high school diploma and is not a GED. Use this tool if the student was not identified or offered a path to on-time graduation last year.  

Request to Participate in a School-Sponsored Activity or Extracurricular: Under Act 1, students who change schools mid-year must be allowed to participate in school-sponsored activities and extracurriculars if they meet “participation and qualification requirements.” Use this tool if the student is being denied the ability to participate in a school-sponsored activity or extracurricular.

Request to Eliminate Fines or Fees: Students protected by Act 1 cannot be assessed fees or fines to participate in a school-sponsored activity or extracurricular or as a penalty for not having a uniform. Such fees must be waived. Use this this tool if the student is subject to a dress code fine or denied the ability to participate in a school-sponsored activity or extracurricular due to a fee. 

Pennsylvania School Funding Litigation: Frequently Asked Questions

The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, Public Interest Law Center, and the law firm O’Melveny have joined together to file a lawsuit on behalf of school districts, parents, and two statewide organizations against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the governor. We are asking for a court order that will force the legislature to comply with the state constitution and ensure that all students receive access to a high-quality public education. The case is scheduled to go to trial in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in October 2021. Here are answers to common questions about the case.

COVID-19 School Closures: General Information

All children are entitled to a quality public education. ELC is working to support students and families in understanding their rights and assisting them in finding the help they need during the COVID-19 crisis. This resource contains general information for Pennsylvania families.

ELC’s COVID-19 Response 

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closures have reinforced the stark inequities facing children in Pennsylvania. ELC remains fully operational, working remotely to connect students and families with resources to help navigate this unprecedented crisis.

We will be updating these education-related resources to help the community respond to this crisis.

Find COVID-19 resources here.

Toxic Schools: What Parents Need to Know – Fact Sheet

Many children across Pennsylvania are suffering the health effects of attending underfunded schools. Deteriorating school buildings and cuts to staff have led to unmet repairs, deferred maintenance, and in some cases dangerous conditions in many school buildings. For example, in 2017 the School District of Philadelphia estimated that it will cost nearly $5 billion to address deferred repairs. The cost to our children is even higher. A Philadelphia Inquirer series entitled “Toxic City – Sick Schools” highlighted health threats identified in Philadelphia’s public school facilities. These threats included environmental hazards such as asbestos, lead in paint, mold and other asthma triggers. This is a guide for parents on these issues to understand their rights.

What to Do When Your Child is Bullied or Harassed: A Parent’s Guide to Advocacy in PA Public Schools

Bullying and harassment are pervasive problems in Pennsylvania, the United States, and even globally. Students who are bullied are at increased risk of experiencing health problems, academic struggles, and more frequently drop out of school.

If the school knows that a current student is being bullied or harassed by another student at school, on school grounds, in school vehicles, at a designated bus stop or at any activity sponsored, supervised or sanctioned by the school, the school has a legal duty to investigate and take action to keep your child safe. The school should also provide your child supports and interventions when bullying or harassment occurs outside of school (including on social media) if it is substantially interfering with your child’s education or causing a threatening environment. This guide offers suggested steps to ensure the school fulfills these duties.

Read the Parent’s Guide.

School Immunization Requirements in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s immunization regulations require parents or guardians of students enrolled in grades K-12 to have their children immunized against various diseases in order to protect the health and safety of all students. ELC has compiled a fact sheet to help families navigate these requirements.

Please note – this document is available in Spanish.