The primary mission of special education advocacy at Disability Rights New Jersey is to ensure that students with disabilities benefit from the rights and protections they are entitled to under various civil rights laws. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) mandate that all students with disabilities receive a free, appropriate public education in a setting with as much interaction with non-disabled students as possible. The IDEA and Section 504 also provide certain procedural rights such as evaluations to determine educational and programmatic needs, additional disciplinary procedural protections, and formal dispute resolution avenues to pursue. New Jersey’s Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Act (HIB) allows for a complaint process to protect students with disabilities from dangers in the school setting.
How We Help
In most cases, Disability Rights NJ operates under a model of self-advocacy. We empower parents and students with disabilities by providing advice to address their concerns or obstacles with the school district under the IDEA, Section 504, disciplinary concerns, and HIB. Our Special Education Team wants to ensure families obtain the educational support and tools they need for their children with disabilities to succeed to their full potential. This can include brief advice or consultation, resources, sample forms and letters, and best practices for gathering information or documentation. We also have training webinars and recordings on common obstacles in special education offered throughout the year.
In limited situations, Disability Rights NJ might represent clients in a variety of formal proceedings. The formal proceedings can include mediation, due process, complaint investigations, and systemic litigation. Applicable grants and funding from private donors allow Disability Rights NJ to continue to offer legal services to families in special education matters. As of January 2022, our special education team has special funding to focus specifically on transition planning and services for students with disabilities aged 14-22. Transition planning and services are meant to prepare students for life after high school and can include things like life skills, postsecondary education, and vocational education. Transition planning and services may be provided by the school in conjunction with other state agencies like the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS). For our transition work, our special education team follows the same model of self-advocacy with the potential for representation at formal proceedings.
The Special Education Team participates in a variety of state-wide work groups and national organizations. Through these work groups and organizations, Disability Rights NJ works tirelessly to improve laws, regulations, policies, and practices that impact students with disabilities.
Your Next Steps
Special Education can be complex and feel overwhelming. It is important that parents and guardians understand the rights under special education law. Please refer to NJ’s Parental Rights in Special Education handbook or Disability Rights NJ’s Advocacy Guide for information and guidance.
Communication with the district or Child Study Team is a key component to special education advocacy. It is best to communicate through writing (email or letters) so you can keep a copy of all communications. Sometimes, communication obstacles or barriers exist. The Special Education Team is here for you!
If you still have questions or concerns, please contact us to complete an intake application. You can fill out the intake form online and someone will call you to complete the application. Make sure you have the most recent copy of your child’s IEP or 504 available when you speak with someone from Disability Rights NJ in case an attorney needs to review the document before providing you with advice.