Retaliation against parents for advocating on behalf of their special needs children with their school district is an unpleasant topic. No one really knows how often retaliation occurs, but clearly it has happened frequently enough for parental advocacy to be protected by Federal statute. Not only do Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect the disabled against discrimination, they also protect those acting on their behalf to ensure the rights of the disabled. Specifically, Section 504, which references Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, states that recipients of Federal funds, which would include school districts, “shall not intimidate, threaten, coerce or discriminate against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by the Act, or because the individual has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this part.”
Retaliation can be defined as “using official resources to ‘punish’ parents,” and it can take a wide range of forms from refusing to respond to emails or return phone calls, not allowing parents to view records, or continually canceling school meetings and conferences. But sometimes the retaliation can be more sinister. Anecdotally the internet is filled with stories of parents who claim their school districts have reported them to child protective services, filed truancy charges against them, or had restraining orders imposed on them, all as the result of their advocacy on behalf of their children.