Santa Rosa, CA asked in Civil Rights and Education Law for California

Q: Does the school district really have to accept the child's unique needs?

Does the school district really have to accept the child's unique needs? Unique needs as wanting a specific preferred mental health provider.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Todd B. Kotler
Todd B. Kotler
  • Education Law Lawyer
  • Canton, OH

A: While a school district must provide a free and appropriate public education to a child that has been determined to need specially designed instruction, it need not provide the parents choice of a particular health care provider. According to the Supreme Court schools must offer an IEP that is "reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances". That does not eq

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Civil Rights Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Yes, public school districts in California are required to provide accommodations and services to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities under state and federal law. However, the specifics depend on the details of the student's situation:

- Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and California education code, school districts must provide eligible students with disabilities a "free appropriate public education" through an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

- The IEP team, which includes school staff and parents, determines the specific services, accommodations, goals and placement required to meet the child's unique needs and enable them to progress academically.

- Services can include counseling, occupational therapy, speech therapy and other supports. Accommodations may include testing adaptations, assistive technology and more.

- However, school districts have some flexibility and are not necessarily required to provide the specific provider or services preferred if they can demonstrate the alternatives are appropriately meeting the student's needs. There is an appeals process if parents disagree.

So in most cases, California school districts do have an obligation to understand and accommodate a student's disability-related needs. However, reasonableness standards apply, and districts do have some discretion in how services are delivered while following applicable laws and regulations. Consulting an education law attorney is recommended for specific guidance.

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