Special Needs Education is a Right in Alabama

Special Needs Education is a Right, not a Favor. Federal law requires each state to have a Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP) to advise state special education staff and policymakers in regards to educating children with disabilities.

Let’s break down the duties of those who are a part of this panel. The duties include:

  • Advising the state of unfulfilled needs in educating children with disabilities.
  • Responding publicly to state rules or regulations regarding educating children with disabilities.
  • Advising the state regarding federal monitoring data collection and emerging corrective action plans.
  • Directing the state to in developing and instigating policies in response to coordinating services for children with disabilities.

Who is on this panel? The majority of the members must be those who have disabilities or have children with disabilities. If they don’t meet these requirements, then they have to be teachers, representatives of higher educational institutions that prepare special education personnel, or administrators of programs for children with disabilities.


Will Your Child Lose His Right to Special Education Services After Turning 18?

 Since 2013, Alabama’s high school diploma program changed. Unless the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) takes action, then your child could lose his or her legal right to special education services beyond a senior year of high school.


What Was Alabama’s Old Diploma Program?

 Before 2013, all students with disabilities were awarded 1 of 3 documents when they graduated, depending on their studies. Federal and state laws stated that a student with disabilities can stay in school until they are 21 years old if they were awarded a regular diploma. If a student received an Alabama Occupational Diploma (AOD) or Certificate of Attendance at graduation, then the student had to return to school after graduation until he or she received a Regular High School Diploma or turned 21.  The extra schooling is important because it helps students with disabilities develop important academic, vocational, and daily living skills.


What is Alabama’s Diploma Program Today?

Alabama changed its diploma plan in 2013 by getting rid of the Alabama Occupational Diploma and the Certificate of Attendance. The only document that is awarded is the Alabama Regular High School Diploma. Under state law, the Alabama High School Diploma is a regular diploma.


How Does this Impact your Child?

Before 2013, your child would have been able to receive a Certificate of Attendance or the AOD at graduation and could come back to school in the fall. However, now your child has lost that right because of the diploma change, which impacts your child’s livelihood. Once your child receives the Alabama High School Diploma at graduation, he will lose his further right to schooling because it’s a regular diploma. When he or she fulfills the course requirements and receives the regular diploma, his or her right to continue school ends. Your child will not be able to come back to school. Unless the ALSDE acts, then your child’s legal right to continue his or her education beyond a senior year is gone.


If you would like to know more about Special Needs Education Rights in Alabama, visit www.adap.ua.edu to learn more about your child’s legal rights.