Education

Please note: The legal options and laws outlined below provide general information only. VRLC attorneys provide legal assistance to individual sexual assault survivors with education-related legal needs related to the assault in Massachusetts and Oregon for survivors in K-12, college, and graduate school.

For individual legal advice in Massachusetts please call (617) 399-6720 x19.
For individual legal advice in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties, Oregon, please call (503) 274-5477 x6.

You have the right to an education free from violence, and an environment in which you are safe and can learn. Below are some laws that may be useful to consider as a student victim of sexual violence.

Transferring Schools

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, formerly No Child Left Behind) is a federal law that requires that a victim of a violent crime in or on public school grounds must be allowed to transfer to another public school. If there is another public school within the same district, the school must offer the student a transfer, but the student may opt not to. If there is no other public school within the same district, the school is encouraged to work with nearby districts. A student cannot choose a specific alternative school. A school is not required to pay transportation costs that result from a transfer.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is a federal law that states that schools that receive federal funding must provide a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for students that have disabilities under Section 504 and special education.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) is part of a federal law that prohibits a school that receives federal funding from discriminating against students with disabilities and ensures that schools provide necessary accommodations for students with disabilities to allow them equal access to their education. A student is eligible for 504 accommodations if they have a disability that substantially limits a life activity or activities. A school must have established policy and procedures related to 504 determinations.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that ensures that eligible students with disabilities receive appropriate services. A student between the ages of 3 and 21 is entitled to special education services if they meet the following:

  • The student has a disability;
  • The student is not making effective progress in school;
  • The ineffective progress is a result of the student’s disability; and
  • The student requires specially designed instruction or related services in order to make effective progress in school.

There is an eligibility determination process, and if determined eligible, the student will receive a written individualized education plan (IEP).

Title IX / Clery Act:

The VRLC’s Know Your Rights Guide
The VRLC’s K-12 Guide (available soon!)

Office for Civil Rights (OCR) - Violations of Title IX and Section 504

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is part of the Department of Education and is responsible for enforcing various federal laws, including Title IX and Section 504. When a school that receives federal funding has violated any of the laws that OCR enforces, an individual (or group) may file a written complaint with OCR within 180 days from the date of the last alleged violation. OCR will conduct an evaluation to determine if the alleged violation falls within their enforcement and the timeliness of the written complaint. Based upon their evaluation, OCR will decide whether or not to open an investigation. If OCR opens an investigation, OCR’s process generally resolves in a voluntary resolution between them and the school either before or after violations have been found. 

VRLC Education Services:

The VRLC may be able to provide legal assistance, including but not limited to, the following:

  • Privacy: VRLC attorneys can advise a student on ways to protect their privacy throughout various legal processes (i.e. criminal, education, safety) and ways to protect their safety and privacy through other means, including online.
  • Transfers: VRLC attorneys can help a student safely transfer to another public school.  
  • Accommodations: VRLC attorneys can help a student obtain safety measures through their school (i.e. safety plans, No Contact Orders, Stay Away Orders), a housing transfer, academic assistance, transportation assistance, and/or other safety measures as needed. 
  • Disciplinary Process: VRLC attorneys can help a student throughout all stages of a disciplinary process, including an investigation, hearing, and/or appeal. 
  • Office for Civil Rights: VRLC attorneys can help assess and file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights when a school has violated certain federal laws.