If you are a student in Iowa suffering from any type of disability, you know it can be challenging just to maintain good academic standing, much less excel, without reasonable accommodations and help. However, you may find comfort in knowing you are not alone. According to national statistics, around one in five (20%) of all students in higher education have some disability, and schools at other levels also report similar percentages.
Your disability can be physical, affecting your ability to enter buildings and classrooms or even make your way around campus. It could affect your health, and you may need more frequent breaks than your peers, or you may not be able to stand or sit for long periods. Perhaps your eyesight or hearing is compromised, which makes it hard to hear lectures, read, type, or use a computer. You may also have a learning disability that affects your attention, concentration, and processing speed.
Whatever your case, your disability can take a considerable toll on your academics. Schools at all levels impose satisfactory academic progress (SAP) requirements along with other standards that students must meet. If you don't receive the proper accommodations for your disability, you can struggle to maintain satisfactory academic progress and receive failing grades, incomplete assignments, and other repercussions.
By state and federal law, all schools that receive state or federal funding must provide reasonable accommodations to their students who have qualifying disabilities. If your school is not providing accommodations or recognizing your disability, you need to understand your rights so that you can get the most out of your education and excel in school and life.
National education attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's Student Defense Team are here to help. We will stand behind you and assert your rights while helping you resolve your dispute and obtain a favorable outcome. Contact attorney-advisor Lento and his team now for help with your Iowa school disability issue.
Disabled Student Rights – Federal and State
All schools in Iowa and throughout the country must comply with federal and state laws for providing accommodations to students with disabilities. The federal law that deals with elementary and secondary schools providing reasonable accommodations is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
IDEA prohibits elementary, middle, and high schools from refusing education to students based on a disability, and it requires schools to provide a “least restrictive environment” where students with disabilities can work alongside non-disabled students. The law also requires schools to implement and maintain individualized education plans (IEPs) for students who have qualifying disabilities.
Another important federal law regarding student accommodations is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law applies to colleges and universities as well as lower-level schools, and it serves to protect students from disability discrimination by prohibiting schools that receive federal funding from preventing or refusing students access to an education simply because they are disabled.
Section 504 requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations to assist with accessing buildings and classrooms. The law also expands to include “major life activities” impacted by the disability, such as walking, talking, hearing, speaking, learning, and working. It also prohibits school officials from treating a student as impaired even though they are not. In short, the law protects you or your disabled student from receiving disparate or unfair treatment because of virtually any impairment.
The ADA and Student Disability Issues in Iowa
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that protects disabled persons, and among other things, it requires all disabled people to be able to access public accommodations. The ADA has broad definitions of what qualifies as a disability that can include learning impairments, such as ADD and ADHD, autism, and other psychiatric conditions that require medication and treatment.
Iowa's Department of Education recognizes all federal statutes and regulations regarding student disabilities, and the state offers procedural safeguards to students, and their parents or guardians, so that they can:
- Understand their rights regarding evaluation and placement
- Review education records
- Appeal any decisions made by school officials regarding a student's placement or disciplinary actions
However, violations do happen, and private lawsuits and civil actions can result from those who feel they were discriminated against. The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is responsible for investigating and prosecuting alleged violations of student disability rights. A recent case involved the Cedar Rapids Community School District, and the district agreed to a settlement for the “discriminatory use of seclusion and restraint against students with disabilities.”
Disability as a Defense or Mitigating Factor in Iowa
Along with making reasonable accommodations for accessing facilities and dealing with IEP issues, schools must also address academic performance and behavioral issues with students with disabilities. Sometimes, a student's disability can affect their SAP standards, and their school may fail to provide adequate accommodations or adjusting their accommodations to meet the needs of the student.
Also, if a student receives discipline that removes them from the least restricted environment, for instance, it could be in violation of IDEA's mandate. Further, a student's disability may prevent them from adequately participating in any disciplinary hearings for misconduct, thereby effectively removing their chance to defend themselves. The situation could be one where the student's misconduct wouldn't have occurred if they had received the proper accommodations.
Iowa requires its schools to follow specific procedures and guidelines regarding disciplinary action against students with disabilities and IEPs. The law requires schools to conduct a manifest determination within ten days of the school's decision regarding discipline. The school must notify the student's parents and provide them with a copy of the procedural safeguards notice.
A Premier School Disability Attorney Advisor in Iowa
If you or your child has experienced violations of your rights as a disabled student, or if you are struggling to obtain your required accommodations, you need an attorney advisor who has in-depth knowledge of state and federal education laws and can help you fight for your rights and future.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully represented hundreds of students in Iowa and across the nation with disability accommodations issues, misconduct disputes, failure to meet SAP standa