Despite the fact that repeating a grade, which is also known as “grade retention,” has not been shown to help children, schools generally have the power to hold students back depending on their academic performance in relation to their peers. This is usually done with the goal of ensuring that students are not left behind academically and can more easily integrate into classes once they reach the appropriate grade level. However, some experts question its effectiveness in meeting these goals.
Every school district has its own set of policies on student promotion and retention. Still, schools usually can retain students without their parent’s permission if they believe it is warranted by their academic performance. If you disagree with your child being held back, talk with an education attorney about what legal recourse may be available for you and your family.
Know your school district’s policies
Every state has its own laws about when students can be retained, so it’s crucial that you learn the law in your state if you are worried about your child being held back. Most public school districts also have a document that outlines the specific policies and procedures that a school must follow to require a student to repeat a year. An experienced local education lawyer can explain the rules your child’s school must follow to retain your child.
When does the option of retention need to start being considered?
Most often, schools consider holding students back if they haven’t developed the academic skills necessary to succeed in the next grade. In fact, some states have passed “third-grade retention laws,” that require third-grade students who can’t read at a certain level must be retained and repeat the grade.
Schools may also consider retaining students for the following reasons:
- The student is young for their grade
- The student is too immature
- The student had excessive absences
At the school level, who decides if a student is at risk of being held back?
Your child’s classroom teacher will often be responsible for deciding if your child should be held back. And even if the school district has another procedure in place, the classroom teacher’s input will strongly influence the decision-making process.
In most cases, this decision won’t come out of the blue, and parents will be aware that their child is struggling before learning that they will be retained. Your child’s teacher should advise you if they are concerned about your child’s performance or if they are at risk of being held back. For this reason, it’s essential that parents remain engaged in their child’s education throughout the school year. If you take action early on in the year, you may be able to prevent your child from being held back.
Your Rights as a Parent
As a parent, you have rights when it comes to your child’s education. An important set of rights involves the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If your child has a diagnosed or undiagnosed disability, the IDEA requires their school to provide them with the same educational opportunity that their peers receive.
This means that your child’s school must conduct appropriate evaluations of students who may have a disability. If your child is identified as having a disability, create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that addresses your child’s specific educational needs. Additionally, the IDEA gives parents the right to participate in decisions regarding their child’s IEP and educational placement.
If you believe that your child may be struggling at school due to a disability, it is vital to raise your concerns with the school as soon as possible. An IEP may be able to help your child meet the academic standards needed to avoid retention.
However, if your child does not have a disability or the school has already informed you that they will be retained, you may be able to appeal the decision. Guidelines vary broadly between states and school districts, so you should discuss your situation as soon as possible with a local education attorney. An accomplished school lawyer can help you demand your rights under the IDEA or fight a retention decision. Either way, it’s helpful to have an experienced professional on your side.
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RMO LLP serves clients in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Orange County, and communities throughout California. Our founder, Scott E. Rahn has been named “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” by SuperLawyers, Trusts and Estates Litigator of the Year, and Best Lawyers in America for Litigation – Trusts and Estates.