While the Co-op doesn’t directly offer services to families, we recognize that parents play a critical role in their child’s school success and are important partners in helping DC charter schools improve their programs for students with disabilities.
Parents are a great resource to schools striving to improve the quality of their special education programs. Active participation by parents of children with disabilities offers the school community a unique perspective that helps administrators, teachers, and even other parents learn more about how to create an equitable learning environment for all children. We hope the information below will help inform and empower parents to work collaboratively with schools.
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions about Charter Schools and Special Education
Yes! Charter schools are public schools, and are open to any child living in DC. All charters must provide special education and related services for students with disabilities. Charters can’t refuse to enroll a child because he/she has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or disability. If a child is enrolled in a charter school and the IEP team feels it can not meet the student’s needs, the team may request a change in placement, and works with DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to find a more appropriate school for the child. Remember, as a parent, YOU are part of the IEP team!
Many charter schools have unique programs that may be a good fit for your child. For example some schools focus on technology, arts, or provide some instruction in another language. Many use an inclusion model for meeting student needs. Call schools and ask about their programs. Consider your child’s interests and strengths and how they fit with the school’s program. Attend open houses where you can meet teachers and visit classrooms.
You can apply through My School DC – the common application and lottery for DC’s public school options. The common application includes most charters and DCPS. However, not ALL charter schools participate; check out this list to see which schools are participating. If you don’t see the one that interests you, contact the school and ask about their application process.
This application process usually opens in December and closes in March (be sure to check My School DC for deadlines). Once your child has been been enrolled, share copies of his/her IEP and evaluation reports. The school cannot require this information until your child is enrolled, and cannot make it a contingency to hold their seat.
Charter schools are public schools and by law can not refuse to enroll a student based on their special education needs. A school may not have every type of special education service in place all the time – they may not have any students who need it! But they are required to implement IEPs for any student they enroll.
Resources & Information
- Understood.org’s IEP Boot Camp may be helpful as you prepare for your child’s IEP meeting. Also check out their Basics About Your Child’s Rights section.
- Writghtslaw is a site for information on special education law and advocacy for children with disabilities.
- The Learning Disabilities Association of America maintains a list of national advocacy organizations.
- The Disability Law Handbook available in Spanish and in English. This handbook is written in FAQ format, and answers questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and other laws.
- The Center for Parent Information and Resources has a comprehensive collection of links about how ESSA impacts students with disabilities.
- The Center for Parent Information and Resources’ New to Disabilities page is a good place to start if your child has recently been diagnosed.
- The National Center for Learning Disabilities has a Parent Guide to Response to Intervention to help families understand this approach to meeting student needs.
- Tip sheets on disabilities – The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center has tip sheets for families and services providers on various disability types.
- Did you know that ALL behavior is a form of communication? 5 facts about behavior that every parent should know
- Your child with an IEP may not qualify for ESY, but a quality summer program is still important. Read this article on selecting a summer camp for kids with learning or attention problems from GreatSchools for tips on how to select a summer program for your child.
- Is your child in middle or high school? Visit our DC3C site for transition resources.
- Advocates for Justice in Education’s mission is to educate parents, youth, and the community about the laws governing public education, specifically for children with disabilities.
- University Legal Services – A DC based organization that provides legal services for individuals with disabilities.
- Children’s Law Center of DC – The Children’s Law Center provides comprehensive legal representation specifically for children in DC.
- Easter Seals – Easter Seals provides a variety of services for people with disabilities and their families, including individualized therapy services and child care centers.
- DC Quality Trust – A local advocacy agency supporting the interests of people with developmental disabilities.
- DC Action for Children – A nonprofit advocacy organization that works to improve the lives of children in DC.
- The Inclusive Prosperity Coalition – a coalition of individuals committed to protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities in DC.
- Autism Society of America
- Brain Injury Association
- National Alliance for Mentally Ill
- National Down Syndrome Society
- National Center for Learning Disabilities
- National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities
- National Resource Center on ADHD
- CHADD: Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Center for Parent Information and Resources
- Cerebral Palsy Guide