Student Disability Advisor — Mississippi

Along their educational journeys, students with disabilities will face challenges like other peers and pupils in everything from academic rigors to social stress to fulfilling graduation requirements. However, students with disabilities should know that they aren't alone. According to an official study, nearly 20 percent of college and university students nationwide have an emotional, mental, or physical disability. State and federal laws make it clear that disabled students may be afforded reasonable accommodations for qualifying impairments at any level of education, including post-secondary schools. However, schools in Mississippi sometimes fail in their adherence to legal commitments, causing students with disabilities to fall behind in their education. If your K-12 school, institution of higher education, or other academic program fails to recognize your disability or provide you with reasonable accommodations, contact national education attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento. He and the Lento Law Firm's Student Defense Team stand ready to defend your disability rights, ensuring your access to equal education.

Disabled Student Rights in Mississippi

Disability Accommodations in Mississippi

All primary and secondary school students are guaranteed a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) until they graduate or turn 21, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. For students with qualifying disabilities, institutions must provide reasonable accommodations to fulfill FAPE requirements. Additionally, K-12 schools must educate students in the "least restrictive environment," meaning disabled students cannot be separated from the majority of in-school populations unless certain circumstances exist, typically in extreme cases involving emergency situations. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the primary federal law governing access to the before mentioned accommodations in primary and secondary schools. The act compels schools to examine and identify student disabilities, managing a student's education through an individualized education plan (IEP). Likewise, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act directs Mississippi's colleges and universities to provide accommodations to students that are impaired by qualifying disabilities. Such accommodations may include augmentative or enhancive devices to improve a student's senses or mobility, facility conversions, schedule modifications, alternative testing methods, and others.

ADA Issues and Lawsuits in Mississippi

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also states that colleges and universities must accommodate qualifying disabilities under federal law. The ADA covers a multitude of cardiovascular, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, neurological, respiratory, and physical disabilities and disorders. Yet, intellectual and emotional disabilities are also covered under the ADA, like anxiety disorders, learning incapacities, and psychiatric conditions that require constant physician-prescribed medication or therapy. The federal government will enforce ADA disability rights through formal lawsuits or civil actions. For example, the Department of Justice pursued a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi to remedy the fact that disabled students are "systematically incarcerated for allegedly committing minor offenses, including school disciplinary infractions, and are punished disproportionately without due process of law."

Mississippi State Disability Laws

Mississippi's state disability laws generally track with federal laws. However, some expanded accommodations are afforded to students with disabilities. For example, while IDEA ensures that a disabled student will receive special education support services until they turn 21, Mississippi Code Annotated (M.C.A.) §37-23-137 states that students are eligible for the benefits until they "graduate from high school with a standard high school diploma." Parents and guardians of students may also request adjustments to a student's IEP more than once a year, per M.C.A. §37-23-133. If educational programs involve children or toddlers with disabilities under the age of three, M.C.A. §41-87-9 states that the parents or guardian may request the development of an Individualized Family Service Plan.

Disability as a Mitigating Factor in Mississippi

Disabilities Affecting Academic Progression Issues in Mississippi

Although students have a secured opportunity to obtain FAPE in any school they attend, students with a disability must still follow the same academic progression policies as others. Mississippi's K-12 schools, colleges, and universities will have a satisfactory academic progress (SAP) policy. SAP standards typically include minimum thresholds of quantitative goals each student must meet per semester and cumulatively. Some individual SAP requirements are minimum grade point averages, the number of course credits attempted, percentage of course credits passed, and a maximum time period for graduation. However, Mississippi educational p