As a parent, there is no higher priority than protecting your child’s safety and development in the classroom. Knowing your child’s rights as a student member of a public school is essential in defending their interests. As the U.S. Supreme Court once said, students do not “shed their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse door.” However, understanding your child’s rights and how to enforce them involves complicated administrative law issues that are best explained by an experienced administrative law lawyer.

Filing a Complaint

When a public school violates a right guaranteed by law, before you file a lawsuit, you should first file a complaint with your school district. Each district has a different procedure for processing complaints. If the district does not fix the problem, you can sue your school and district in court.

What Kind of Violations Can I Sue My School For?

There are three types of lawsuits that commonly arise: 

  • Disabilities and Special Education
    • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides the right for children with disabilities that qualify to receive “free and appropriate education.” Schools are required to evaluate any student suspected of having disabilities and if they qualify must provide the student with an individualized education program (IEP).
    • If you feel that your district is denying the appropriate services required to your child under the IDEA act, and the school has failed to address your concerns when presented with a formal complaint, you may have a valid legal claim.
  • Sexual Harassment / Bullying
    • Students have the right to receive public education in an atmosphere that is free from fear. This means that public schools are required to provide an educational environment that is safe and free of sexual harassment or bullying. Bullying can include:
      • Aggressive, harassing remarks made against a student on a regular basis
      • Threats or physical abuse that prevents a student from using some part of the facility
      • Repeated threats or abusive contact
    • If your child is being bullied, your school must take steps to prevent the abusive conduct. If they do not act, you can sue the school and the district for damages or to enforce your child's rights.
  • Student Discipline
    • If a student engages conduct that the school board or government deems inappropriate, the student may face discipline.
    • Two common types of discipline are:
      • Suspension: Suspension means that a student is forbidden from attending school for a certain number of days. Suspensions are usually noted on a student's record.
      • Expulsion: Expulsion means that a student can no longer attend his or her current school. They are almost always noted on a student's record.
    • If you or your child has been wrongfully disciplined, you can sue the school and district for damages or for an order reversing the disciplinary action.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Lawsuits against government entities are procedurally complex and the school or district will be represented by attorneys who handle similar cases daily. A skilled government attorney with experience with education can you navigate the complicated administrative law issues and procedures, evaluate your options, and represent you at administrative hearings or in court.