ELC Newsletter:  Special Back-to-School Edition
As children across Pennsylvania head back to school, keep in mind the following students' rights and schools' responsibilities that apply in all public schools, including charter schools. 

Contact the Education Law Center with questions and concerns:  215-238-6970 (Philadelphia) or 412-258-2120 (Pittsburgh).

1.  ENROLLMENT

You have the right to be enrolled in school within 5 days of submitting only 4 documents: proof of the child's age, proof of where the child lives, immunization records, and a sworn statement of disciplinary record.   Students experiencing homelessness or in foster care are entitled to immediate enrollment. 


If you are facing "disenrollment" you have the right to a hearing. In a case ELC litigated last year, the Court held that a parent's burden of proof in the residency context is to provide the same documentary evidence that would have been sufficient to enroll the student in the first instance and the burden of proof then shifts to the school district to establish "non-residency" based on "substantial evidence."  Uncorroborated hearsay testimony is not sufficient. Read more analysis of the case and the Commonwealth Court's decision
  
2.  STUDENTS' CIVIL RIGHTS IN SCHOOL

Students have important rights in school.  Read ELC's Statement of Student Rights and extended fact-sheets about specific rights:
3.  PROVIDING A SAFE SPACE FOR STUDENTS TO DISCUSS CURRENT EVENTS 

Our students do not attend school in a vacuum and they are not blind to systemic oppression or the various ways in which  white supremacy and bigotry show up in the world. It can be particularly harmful for those students targeted by hateful rhetoric to hear silence from the adults in their lives.    ELC stands with the school children we serve to condemn the bigotry, hate and violence of racism and white supremacy.  

It is important that school administrators and teachers create a safe space for young people to discuss the role racism places in our world, both historically and today, as well as foster dialogue aiming to eliminate prejudice and encourage respect for all.

Don't miss this teachable moment - consider these resources for teachers and school administrators:
 
4.  SCHOOL DISCIPLINE 

This year, Pennsylvania courts reaffirmed that schools cannot expel students under the weapons statute for how they use ordinary objects (like pencils).   The "zero tolerance" law can only be used to expel students for possession of actual weapons. This is an important victory in our effort to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.  Read more about the S.A. decision
 
Students have other important rights in the school discipline context, including the right to a hearing if a student is facing expulsion or disciplinary transfer.  Learn more about school discipline and students' due process rights in ELC's publication School Discipline in Pennsylvania.
 
5.  NEW TRUANCY LAW 

A new truancy law in Pennsylvania takes effect at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. The law emphasizes that parents should not be incarcerated and children should be removed into foster care for truancy only as a last resort. To this end, the new law requires schools to host school attendance improvement conferences with students and parents prior to taking legal action against students or parents for truancy. At these conferences, schools must create plans, in collaboration with parents and guardians, that identify and address the root causes of a child's truancy. The law also prohibits schools from using exclusionary discipline tactics, like expulsion, out-of-school suspension, disciplinary reassignment to alternative education, and transfer for truant behavior. See more details in ELC's brief Analysis of PA's New Truancy Law and a longer analysis highlighting the changes made in this new truancy law

6. STUDENTS IN FOSTER CARE AND JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEMS

Beginning in 2016, as a result of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, all children in foster care now have the right to remain in the same school even when they change living placements or must be immediately enrolled in a new school even without enrollment documents.  Learn more about how to ensure school stability through our Fostering Connections Implementation Toolkit
 
Learn more about how to improve educational outcomes for children in foster care in the Blueprint for Change: Education Success for Children in Foster Carea publication of the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education , a collaboration of ELC, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, and Juvenile Law Center.
 
All children in foster care and in the juvenile justice system must have an active involved decisionmaker.  Learn more in ELC's factsheet: Educational Decision Makers and Surrogate Parents in Pennsylvania .
 
Youth in the juvenile justice system are among the most educationally at-risk of all student groups, but there are many evidence-based strategies to vastly improve their educational and life outcomes.  In 2016, ELC along with our partners at the Southern Poverty Law Center , Juvenile Law Center and the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law launched the Legal Center for Youth Justice and Education (LCYJE) to ensure that all youth in and returning from the juvenile and criminal justice systems can access a quality education. Our recently published Blueprint for Change and interactive website are designed to serve as a tool for all stakeholders (including youth, parents, educators, lawyers, judges, caseworkers, probation officers, providers, and policy-makers) to promote educational success for youth in the juvenile justice system.
7.  STUDENTS EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS

Students who are homeless, including unaccompanied homeless youth, are entitled to school stability and immediate enrollment in school.  The Every Student Succeeds Act extends this right to children in preschool and provides additional protections for unaccompanied homeless youth.  See ELC's factsheet on McKinney Vento protections for students experiencing homelessness. 
   
ELC's publication School Success for Students Without Homes provides a series of "tools" to help parents and providers ensure school success for children and youth (ages 3-21) in Pennsylvania who are experiencing homelessness. The toolkit provides information about important laws and explains legal rights and how to use them.

8.  ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS 
 
Students with limited English proficiency have the right to overcome their language barriers and cannot be diverted to alternative schools that lack sufficient ESL services.
9.  STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES  
 
Students with disabilities have significant rights under the law. For more information, refer to ELC's publications:
10.  EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
  • The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development & Early Learning (OCDEL) released two new policy announcements to address exclusionary discipline and to promote inclusion in early childhood learning programs.

    OCDEL's two new policies now make clear the State's commitment to decrease exclusionary discipline and increase inclusion in all of its early childhood learning programs across the Commonwealth.  With extensive parent, provider, and community engagement and a series of public forums and public comments, OCDEL identified shared values and vision across its programs, and released these two companion policies, effective Jul. 1, 2017. Please read OCDEL's policy on "Reduction of Expulsion and Suspension in Early Childhood Programs" and their policy on "Inclusion of All Children in Early Childhood Programs." These policies reflect one of many steps OCDEL is undertaking - which includes the promise of more detailed guidance soon - to ensure that all early learning programs in Pennsylvania align with federal guidance. More importantly, these policies are designed to better support children, families, and providers to prevent, reduce, and ultimately eliminate suspensions and expulsions in early childhood programs, and to promote inclusion. Please find more information on these developments at PA Keys Updates including  OCDEL's implementation timeline
     
  • Hearing officer finds PDE is responsible for ensuring transportation of students receiving early intervention and special education services in Philadelphia.

    A special education hearing officer recently ruled that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is "responsible to provide or ensure the provision of appropriate transportation" for a student receiving transportation as part of their early intervention services in Philadelphia County. Based on this ruling, PDE is responsible for ensuring the coordination of appropriate transportation services for children receiving early intervention in Philadelphia moving forward. Read the opinion here.
     
    If you or someone you know has a child who receives transportation as part of their early intervention services from Elwyn and needs assistance with transportation issues, please contact ELC attorney and Independence Foundation Fellow Sean McGrath at smcgrath@elc-pa.org.
Join Us to Celebrate on September 27

Please plan now to join our co-chairs, David Richman & Janet Perry and David & Beth Buckman, along with nearly 300 supporters from the region's legal, business, education, and community sectors at our 2017 Celebration on September 27 at the Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia. This year, ELC will honor PNC Bank; Joan Mazzotti; ELC Pro Bono Awardee Richard Shephard of Morgan Lewis; and Dr. Bruce Campbell Jr., PhD. We hope to see you there!

Join the Campaign for Fair Education Funding

Alongside more than 50 organizations across Pennsylvania, Education Law Center is a leading member of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding. Click below to read more about our efforts to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where he or she lives.
United Way Donor Choice Code: 1873 (Southeastern PA)

A copy of the Education Law Center's official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.  
Ensuring access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania
 
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