On December 28, 2016, the Office of Special Education Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), in cooperation with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), issued guidelines regarding public charter schools obligations under IDEA. OCR issued guidelines regarding public charter schools under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. OSERS guidance states that children who attend public charter schools retain all protections under IDEA as they would if they were enrolled in a traditional school. Charter schools that do not operate as a local educational agency (LEA) or are not part of a LEA are not addressed in OSERS guidelines.
If a public charter school is its own LEA then it holds responsibility for enduring the rights of students with disabilities under IDEA. If the public charter school operates under a LEA then the LEA is responsible for ensuring the rights of students with disabilities are not violated. The responsible party shall ensure the development and implementation of a child’s IEP.
If a child transfers into a public charter school, the new LEA must take steps within a reasonable period of time to avoid any undue interruption in the provision of services. A child with an IEP shall not remain at home until a new IEP is developed by the new LEA. If a child transfers from another school and the public charter school is unable, after reasonable attempts, to obtain a copy of the child’s IEP the new public charter school LEA or LEA which includes the public charter school is not responsible to provide special education and related services. However, the parents of the child with a disability and new LEA may agree for the provision of special education and related services while the school conducts an assessment of the child’s disability.
Most of the requirements of IDEA are the same for public charter schools as traditional public schools. Child Find, Procedural Safeguards, due process rights, FAPE, LRE, and inclusion in extracurricular activities do not change. Public charter schools must follow the requirements of IDEA. Virtual (online) charter schools are only able to escape responsibility if they reassign IDEA responsibilities to another entity.
A public charter school cannot dis-enroll a child with a disability without first convening an IEP meeting. Outside of disciplinary action, dis-enrollment is considered a placement change.
If a public charter school that is part of an LEA closes, the LEA is responsible for ensuring the provision of FAPE. If a public charter school that is its own LEA closes, the state educational agency is responsible for the provision of FAPE. The responsible agency must ensure an appropriate placement is proposed for the child.