The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) estimates that 7.2 million students, or 15% of public school students between the ages of 3 and 21, received special education services in a single year. When you consider learning disabilities like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and others that do not require special education but still affect your success as a student, the scope of the disability issue in schools is even greater.
Fortunately, the prevalence of disabilities among students has led federal and state legislators to protect those students. If you or your student have progression issues, behavioral issues, or other problems related to a disability, it is critical that the student receives fair treatment.
Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento helps students in all grades and types of educational institutions with disability-related issues. The Lento Law Firm Team will work with your student and their school to find a resolution to the problem that they face.
Rights of Disabled Students in Florida
Between state and federal statutes, students with disabilities in Florida have rights that no educational institution can revoke or overrule. These rights include:
Disability Accommodations for Students in Florida
The state of Florida takes every possible step to ensure that students with disabilities can learn alongside peers who do not have disabilities.
Florida Statutes § 1003.57 states that, “To the extent appropriate, students with disabilities, including those students in public or private institutions or other facilities, shall be educated with students who are not disabled. Segregation of exceptional students shall occur only if the nature or severity of the exceptionality is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”
This statute alludes to “supplementary aids and services” that allow students with disabilities to remain in the traditional classroom. The State of Florida Department of Health lists several accommodations that a disabled student may receive, including:
- Extending testing time
- Private testing areas
- Someone to assist in reading test questions and answers
- Extended or additional breaks
- Large-print copies of testing and other learning materials
- A printed copy of instructions that a teacher or proctor typically gives in a verbal manner
Florida Statutes § 1003.57 also details how the state must accommodate students who are “exceptional” and may require specialized educational programs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Protects Students in Florida
The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) explains that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects students with disabilities from discrimination. The ADA applies to both elementary and secondary students in Florida, and you may file a lawsuit if you believe that an educational institution violated your student's ADA-provided protections.
The ADA provides for a wide range of student accommodations, from modified schedules to services and more. Our team knows this Act and its provisions well, and we can quickly determine whether someone has violated a student's rights as determined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
State-Level Disability Laws in Florida
Florida is also bound by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) Act of 1975, which guarantees a free and appropriate public education for every student with a disability. The Florida House of Representatives notes that the protections afforded by the IDEA Act extend to private-school and homeschooled children.
Florida statutes entitle a child between the age of 3 and 21 to:
- A disability evaluation that may qualify them for protection under the IDEA Act
- If the student has an approved disability, an individualized education plan (IEP) describing the services the student will receive in order to complete their education
- Alternative assessment methods to gauge the student's progress
The details of the IDEA Act have been the subject of lawsuits, which have firmly established the rights and expectations of disabled students in the state. If your student has any dispute with an educational institute or governmental body related to the IDEA Act, our firm knows the case law and will provide a capable legal argument in your student's defense.
Disability as a Student Defense in Florida
Educational institutions that fail to accommodate disabilities put the student's present success and future ambitions in jeopardy.
How Disability Can Cause Academic Progression Issues
Students with disabilities are entitled to special accommodations for a reason. Vanderbilt University's IRIS Center explains that accommodations do not change the expectations of a student but only improve a student's odds of success in achieving those expectations.
If an educational institution fails to honor a student's need for special accommodations, that institution may:
- Force the student into academic underachievement or even failure
- Cause unnecessary emotional and psychological distress for the student
- Cause a student to lose financial aid because, without accommodations, the student fails to meet scholarship benchmarks
- Create circumstances by which the student's failure to achieve high marks or progress academically stunts their personal and professional ambitions
These are unacceptable outcomes, especially considering that educational institutions are bound by state and federal law to protect students with disabilities.
How Disability Can Cause Behavioral Issues
Several disabilities have a direct and adverse effect on a student's mood, psyche, and behavior. Even learning disabilities that do not directly cause behavioral issues can contribute to disciplinary problems, particularly when a school fails to accommodate the student's learnin