Public School or Charter School? – Know Your Rights

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Whether your children go to a public school or a charter school, they (and you) have rights! Charter schools don’t have to follow all of the rules that public schools do though. There are other rules they are supposed to follow, but without oversight, there are patterns of charters pushing students out or telling families they are “not a good fit,” for their school – especially students with disabilities. For example, 60% of Bay Area KIPP students who started in 5th grade left KIPP before 9th grade. A new charter school law gives families more rights. Wherever your child goes to school, you may have to advocate for them. Here’s some information about basic rights and how to advocate for yourself or your student.

Resource Organizations (Public or Charter Schools):

  • Legal Services For Children’s Warmline: 415-863-3762
  • Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth: 415-269-0161
  • SF Families Union: 415-234-3045

Public Schools Rights:

  • ACLU My School My Rights: https://www.myschoolmyrights.com/
  • SFUSD Student Handbook: http://bit.ly/SFUSDHandbook
  • Students can not be suspended for “disruption,” “willful defiance,” being late or absent, or for dress code violations. Students should not be suspended or removed from class for disciplinary reasons without the school documenting the suspension and following proper process. Students can only be suspended after other efforts have been tried and have failed to change the child’s behavior.
  • If a student is being suspended, the parent or guardian must be notified and the family should meet with the principal to tell their side of the story. If a student is being expelled, you have a right to a hearing, to see and present evidence, and to bring a lawyer or advocate.
  • You can also file complaints (anonymously) or bring concerns to the publicly elected school board any 2nd or 4th Tuesday of the month.

New Charter School Rights:

  • ACLU Charter School Rights (AB 1360) https://www.aclusocal.org/ab1360
  • Like public schools, charter schools now can’t require parents to volunteer or pay fees to participate in basic activities. Charter schools shouldn’t ask about disabilities before students enroll, aren’t allowed to discourage families from enrolling a student with disabilities and are supposed to provide services.
  • Charter schools must publicly give you a list of specific reasons students can be suspended or expelled.
  • If you are suspended or expelled, the school has to give you “due process.” That means telling you what the reasons are, showing you evidence (not based on hearsay), giving you a chance to tell your side of the story and having a neutral party make a decision.
  • If a student is pushed out for any reason, you have five days to ask for a hearing.
  • You can take concerns to the charter school board. It may meet outside of SF and may have representatives from outside business interests.

Do not give written statements and don’t sign stipulated agreements.

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