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Legal Rights and Special Education Resources

No matter how COVID-19 is changing the face of education, students with disabilities still have a legal right to free, appropriate, public education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, is still the law of the land even if your local school has made the switch to remote learning and virtual education.

However, there still will be circumstances where you need to advocate for your or your student’s right to special education. While that may be a daunting prospect on top of everything that is going on in the world today, there are a wide range of resources, special education attorneys and organizations dedicated to protecting your legal rights. Below is a list of several of the most important avenues for ensuring you or your student’s legal right to special education.

*** The materials contained in these resources are the intellectual property of that organization. *** 

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this resource guide does not indicate endorsement of its program or content. RespectAbility has no financial stake in any of these resources.

Table 7: Legal Rights Resources

Organization Resources Description
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) Find a Professional (Special Education Attorneys)

For Students and Families (Peer-to-Peer Network)

Join the COPAA Community

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) is an independent, nonprofit composed of attorneys, advocates, parents and related professionals. If you need to find a special education attorney or an advocate to help your student, COPAA maintains a network of professionals who are there to help.
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) Special Education

Local Resources. (Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Joaquin counties)

CA Parent Training and Information (PTI) Centers

The IEP Cycle

Nationally, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) has been at the forefront of legal efforts to protect special education since 1979. DREDF also operates as a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) for Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Joaquin counties in California.
Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) Special Education Request for Assistance

Disability Rights Request for Assistance

Since the 1970s, DRLC has been an advocacy nonprofit focused on advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities and addressing other legal barriers impacting the disability community. By working on both individual and class action court cases, DRLC challenges discrimination and advances change.
National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) NDRN Member Agencies

Support Education Equality

NDRN Releases 2020-21 School Reopening Principles

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP). There are P&A agencies in every state and territory of the United States, and they are the largest provider of legally based advocacy services for the disability community.
Understood.org Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): What You Need to Know

IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA: Which Laws Do What

What to Include in a State Complaint

Understood.org, a project financed and managed by the Poses Family Foundation, offers English and Spanish language resources related to learning disabilities, parent advocacy and educator materials.
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) – U.S. Department of Education Education Rights of People with Disabilities

Protecting Students With Disabilities

Resources Available in Other Languages

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education.

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