Around the country, news headlines are filled with stories of teachers who are frustrated and fed up. Citing a perfect storm of reasons – safety issues and gun violence, behavioral challenges, learning loss due to Covid, and an increasingly antagonist relationship with parents— some teachers are threatening to strike, and others are simply leaving the profession entirely. School districts rarely have a surplus of qualified educators, and paired with the job demand in other industries, more and more educators are leaving teaching.
For all students, a teacher shortage means larger class sizes, less personalized attention, and fewer class options. But for students on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan, it can mean nothing short of disaster.
What's an IEP?
IEPs are available for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade (though students who attend public universities can also get help through college disability services), and they dictate the special education supports, services, and instruction a student needs to be successful in school. IEPs are covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and they apply to students who attend public school and public charter schools. For kids to receive special education services, they need an IEP, and in order to get an IEP, the child must be evaluated and approved. After the IEP is in place, parents and students will meet each year with a committee of educators to discuss how to meet the student's needs.
What's a 504 Plan?
Some students will get support through a 504 Plan instead of an IEP, though both can provide support like accommodations and assistive technology. A 504 Plan is called such because it was created by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal civil rights law to stop discrimination against people with disabilities. Generally speaking, the legal requirements surrounding a 504 Plan are less strict than those for an IEP, and it can be easier for a student to qualify for a 504 Plan, though an IEP typically provides more extensive accommodations.
How a Teacher Shortage Hurts Students
Federal laws require that students receive the services and accommodations to which they are entitled, but what happens when there aren't enough special education teachers to provide those services? The students suffer. Not only will students not receive the learning support they need, but students with disabilities like ADHD, Autism, and Tourette's Syndrome could also be unfairly disciplined and even suspended or expelled for reasons related to their disability.
In an environment where fewer and fewer teachers are expected to do more with less and where special education teachers are particularly in short supply, students who need support and services for their disabilities are bound to suffer. Students are likely to receive services from uncertified educators or not receive services at all. Parents will have to be more assertive in demanding the accommodations their children are entitled to receive.
We Can Help
If you're worried that your child is at risk of falling through the cracks when their IEP or 504 Plan is not followed, we can help. We know the laws, and we know how to work with educators to make sure your child gets the support that state and federal laws require. Call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Student Defense Team today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.