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Student Rights

Legal Information
Teenage girl.

This section of PALawHelp.org has information and resources about Student Rights in Pennsylvania.

Click on a resource category listed below to see information related to that category.

Student Rights: Suspension & Expulsion

Information from Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc. on student rights in suspension and expulsion proceedings.

Pregnancy Discrimination - Understanding Your Student Rights Related to Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Laws prohibit discrimination in education on the basis of pregnancy and require schools to provide reasonable accommodations to allow students to continue their education and school-related activities while pregnant and following birth. The Women's Law Project provides information their rights for pregnant students and students who have recently had a baby.

Homeschooling in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, children between the ages of eight and seventeen must attend school. Educating a child at home is one way to comply with compulsory school attendance laws. This fact sheet from the Education Law Center - Pennsylvania provides information on homeschooling guidelines in Pennsylvania. (July 2008)

Mediation (Special Education)

Even when parents and school officials try their best to reach agreement on a student’s special education program, disagreements can occur. If this happens, mediation, which is a free, voluntary, and confidential alternative to a formal due process hearing, is an option. Mediation can take place at any time before or during the due process cycle. Mediation is not a required process and may not delay or deny a parent the right to a due process hearing. Information on the Mediation process from the Office of Dispute Resolution (Special Education).

Special Education Due Process Complaint Process and Forms

Information on the complaint process, including the Complaint Form, which is used to submit a formal complaint to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education. Office for Dispute Resolution (Special Education).

Sample Sworn Statement and Residency Affidavit, 24 P.S. §13-1302 [PDF]

If a child is living with you and you are not with their parent, they have the right to attend school where you live if certain conditions are met. Use this form to determine whether the child living with you is eligible to enroll in school where you reside. This form is an affidavit (sworn statement), which means that you are certifying that all information you put on the form is correct. NOTE: You can face legal penalties if you knowingly complete this form using false information to enroll a child into school.

Rights in Suspension and Expulsion

Information on school suspensions and expulsions from the Erie County Bar Association. (February 2019)

Education Rights for Students with Disabilities

Consumer Legal Information Pamphlet from the Pennsylvania Bar Association. (September 2014)

Education Rights for Mentally Gifted Students

Consumer Legal Information Pamphlet from the Pennsylvania Bar Association. (September 2014)

Rights of Gifted/Handicapped/Special Education Children

Information from the Erie County Bar Association on the rights of students who are gifted, handicapped or in a Special Education program. (April 2018)

School Attendance and Truancy

Information on compulsory school attendance from the Erie County Bar Association. (August 2018)

What Can a Parent Do if a Child has a Health Problem that Requires Support or Services in School?

This fact sheet from the Education Law Center - Pennsylvania provides information about what to do if your child has a health problem, chronic condition, physical, mental, or behavioral impairment that “substantially limits” a “major life activity” and needs help to participate in or benefit from education or extra-curricular programs. [PDF] (August 2021)

Rights of Multilingual Learners & Linguistically & Culturally Diverse Families

Information from the Education Law Center - Pennsylvania. Overview of the rights of students receiving English language instruction (identified in laws as English learners or ELs) and parents or guardians whose first language is not English (identified in laws as limited English proficient or LEP).

Homeschooling in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, children between the ages of eight and seventeen must attend school. Educating a child at home is one way to comply with compulsory school attendance laws. This fact sheet from the Education Law Center - Pennsylvania provides information on homeschooling guidelines in Pennsylvania. (July 2008)

Back to School: How to Enroll Yourself as an Older Youth in School (Video)

The Education Law Center - Pennsylvania Provides this enrollment guide for older youth who are emancipated or living on their own. You have a legal right to go to school in Pennsylvania until the end of the school term in which you have your 21st birthday. (October 2009)

Back to School: Know your Enrollment Rights (Video)

The Education Law Center - Pennsylvania provides this basic guide to enrolling your child in a Pennsylvania public school. (October 2009)

How to Enroll Yourself as an Older Youth in School

The Education Law Center - Pennsylvania provides this step-by-step fact sheet to help older youth enroll themselves in school quickly. It also provides contact information and the necessary forms for school enrollment. (August 2012)

Children with Disabilities who are Bullied or Harassed at School

Information on some options available when your child With disabilities is being harassed by other students.

COVID-19 School Closures: General Information

Five things you should know about school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic from the Education Law Center.

Education Law Center

The Education Law Center is a non-profit legal advocacy and educational organization, dedicated to ensuring that all of Pennsylvania's children have access to a quality public education.

ELC’s 2021 Back-to-School Guide for Pennsylvania Public School Students

The Education Law Center (ELC) has updated its “Back-to-School” guide for families, students, and schools. The information and fact sheets now include COVID-related considerations for the upcoming school year.

Sample Sworn Statement and Residency Affidavit, 24 P.S. §13-1302 [PDF]

If a child is living with you and you are not with their parent, they have the right to attend school where you live if certain conditions are met. Use this form to determine whether the child living with you is eligible to enroll in school where you reside. This form is an affidavit (sworn statement), which means that you are certifying that all information you put on the form is correct. NOTE: You can face legal penalties if you knowingly complete this form using false information to enroll a child into school.

The Right to Special Education In Pennsylvania: A Guide for Parents and Advocates [PDF]

This Guide describes the legal rules that govern the special education and early intervention programs in Pennsylvania for children from age three until schooling ends. (2021)

What to Do When Your Child is Bullied or Harassed: A Parent’s Guide to Advocacy in PA Public Schools

If the school knows that a current student is being bullied or harassed by another student at school, on school grounds, in school vehicles, at a designated bus stop or at any activity sponsored, supervised or sanctioned by the school, the school has a legal duty to investigate and take action to keep your child safe. The school should also provide your child supports and interventions when bullying or harassment occurs outside of school (including on social media) if it is substantially interfering with your child’s education or causing a threatening environment. This guide offers suggested steps to ensure the school fulfills these duties. (September 2019)

Your Right to Be Free from Gender Identity Discrimination

This Fact Sheet details rights of transgender and gender-noncomforming students, addressing access to facilities, expressing your gender identity, and the right to be safe at school. “Gender identity” is a person’s sense of themselves as a boy, a girl, both a boy and girl, or neither boy or girl. (2018)

Your Right to Be Free from Sexual Orientation Discrimination at School

This Fact Sheet details rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students, including the right to be safe in school, the right to be out, and the right to privacy. (2018)

Homeless Education - PA Department of Education

Information from the Pennsylvania Department of Education on homeless children's right to an education.

Mediation (Special Education)

Even when parents and school officials try their best to reach agreement on a student’s special education program, disagreements can occur. If this happens, mediation, which is a free, voluntary, and confidential alternative to a formal due process hearing, is an option. Mediation can take place at any time before or during the due process cycle. Mediation is not a required process and may not delay or deny a parent the right to a due process hearing. Information on the Mediation process from the Office of Dispute Resolution (Special Education).

Special Education Due Process Complaint Process and Forms

Information on the complaint process, including the Complaint Form, which is used to submit a formal complaint to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education. Office for Dispute Resolution (Special Education).

Student Enrollment - Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

The Pennsylvania Department of Education provides Questions and Answers to assist parents, school districts and charter schools in the student enrollment process. This information is based on applicable school law and regulation and reflects procedures outlined in the recently revised Basic Education Circular (BEC) on Student Enrollment. [PDF]

Children with Disabilities who are Bullied or Harassed at School

Information about what to do when your child with disabilities is bullied at school.

Trans Youth Handbook

The Trans Youth Handbook serves as a comprehensive legal resource guide that covers the rights of trans youth across a wide spectrum of situations, including identity documents, school, health care, non-affirming care environments, and work.

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