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.

ELC Fact Sheet: Education Decision Makers

The Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center have developed a fact sheet to explain important educational decision maker rules, including Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Procedural Rules (Rules 1147 and 147) requiring judges to appoint an “Educational Decision Maker” for children who have no parent or guardian to make education decisions for them, or when a court concludes that appointing an EDM is in the best interest of a child.

In addition, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts have a duty to appoint a “surrogate parent” for children with special education needs under specific circumstances.

ELC Toolkit: School Success for Students Without Homes

This collection of “tools” is intended to help parents and providers ensure school success for children and youth (ages 3-21) in Pennsylvania who are experiencing homelessness. The toolkit provides information about important laws and explains legal rights and how to use them.

The Rights of Students Experiencing Homelessness

Youth who are experiencing homelessness have additional rights under a federal law called the McKinney-Vento Act and rights under Pennsylvania’s Act 1, if they have changed school entities at least once in a school year due to experiencing homelessness. This fact sheet provides detailed information and resources for youth experiencing homelessness regarding their education rights under federal and state law. A sample McKinney-Vento complaint form is provided.


Expulsions in Pennsylvania

A fact sheet providing information for parents and guardians on the rules and procedures for student expulsions from school district and charter schools.

While public schools have wide latitude to create rules, they must follow their own rules. Thus, a school can only expel a student for a violation of a school rule if the school has officially adopted and distributed the rule. School rules should be listed in a published Code of Student Conduct that should be given to all students and parents.

Please note – this document is available in Spanish.

How to Enroll a Child Living with Someone Other Than Their Parent

Enrolling a child who is not experiencing homelessness or is in foster care: If a child is living with you and you are not with their parent, they have the right to attend school where you live if certain conditions are met.  Most schools have their own form to determine whether the child living with you is eligible to enroll in the school catchment where you reside. Check with the school first to see if they have a specific form they want you to use. If not, you may be able to use this form to establish that the child living with you is eligible to enroll in the school catchment where you reside. Your school district’s form will be similar to this.  Regardless of whether you use the schools form or the sample form above, the document you will complete is an affidavit (sworn statement), which means that you are certifying that all information you provide on the form is correct. NOTE: You can face legal penalties if you knowingly complete an affidavit form using false information to enroll a child into school.