EDUCATION LAW

Pegasus provides legal representation to families seeking to enforce their children’s right to a free, appropriate, and meaningful education, focusing on the needs of children with disabilities. Pegasus also works with child protective services and the judiciary to ensure that the educational needs of children in foster care are met.

For help with an education-related matter, call Pegasus at (505) 244-1101. You will be scheduled for a telephone call with a lawyer or advocate who will gather preliminary information about your case to determine whether we can help. If Pegasus cannot take your case, we will do our best to refer you to another lawyer or agency that can. Please be patient, as the need for these services far exceeds the resources available.

The ultimate goal of our educational advocacy is to ensure equal access to quality educational services for all children.  To achieve this long-term goal, we have identified the following three specific priority issues: (1) Creating substantive school discipline reform, including the decriminalization of school misconduct and the removal of harsh disciplinary practices from our public schools; (2) Ensuring equal access to public education for special and vulnerable populations; and (3) Ensuring the provision of high quality educational services, including the use of evidence-based practices, adequate language supports, and the expansion of early childhood education.

Are you living away from your parents and wanting to enroll in school?

You can do that. Information on the rights of unaccompanied youth to access education can be found here.

Unaccompanied youth have special rights to access education under the federal McKinney-Vento Act.

Has your child been suspended or expelled from school?

Education is a fundamental right in New Mexico. This means that education cannot be denied or withheld from your child without certain protections. 

School discipline can be formal or informal. For instance, your child’s school may have formally suspended your child after holding a hearing, or your child’s school may have informally disciplined your child by, for example, removing your child from their classroom for periods of time because of their behavior. We recommend you keep detailed notes about each time the school accuses your child of misbehavior and removes them from the classroom. 

If the school is excluding your child because of alleged misbehavior, the school is required to follow certain procedures, depending on the type of exclusion. We recommend that you call our office to speak with an attorney who can advise you of your and your child’s rights. The school may be required to provide you with written notice regarding the school’s decision to remove your child and/or the school may be required to hold an administrative hearing before suspending or expelling your child. 

If you have an upcoming suspension or expulsion hearing, we can help your family prepare. Even if the suspension or expulsion hearing has already happened, you may still have important appeal rights. One of our attorneys can explain these various protections to you. We provide these services at no cost, and one of our organization’s ultimate goals is to remove these harsh disciplinary practices from public schools in New Mexico. 

Does your child need special education?

Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of children who have disabilities. Special education and related services are provided in public schools at no cost to the parents and can include special instruction in the classroom, at home, in hospitals or institutions, or in other settings.  Special education must also help the child learn the information and skills that are taught in the general education curriculum.

If you suspect your child has a disability and needs special education, the first step is to obtain a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation.   We recommend that you write the director of special education or the principal of your child’s school. Describe your concerns with your child’s educational performance and request an evaluation under IDEA, to see if a disability is involved.

For sample forms to assist you in making your evaluation request, please review the resources available through the Center for Parent Information & Resources.

Please note that the school may refuse to evaluate your child if it does not agree that your child has a disability or needs special education.  If this is the case, the school must let you know this decision in writing, as well as why it has refused. This is called “prior written notice.”

If the school refuses to evaluate your child, ask the school system for information about its special education policies, as well as parent rights to disagree with decisions made by the school system. These materials should describe the steps parents can take to appeal a school system’s decision.   The New Mexico Public Education also distributes information about parental rights which can be found here.

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