New Jersey Education Law

Whether you choose to send your child to a private or public school, your expectations remain the same: quality education in a safe and judgement-free environment. Unfortunately, though, that is not always the case, as emotions, personal feelings, and other elements (even though important in their own right) can get in the way of the primary mission of educators.

Public schools are run by agencies of the state (in New Jersey, school boards), and so they are subject to state requirements and guidelines, as well as special limitations imposed by the state and federal law.  By federal law, students with disabilities are entitled to a “free and appropriate public education.”  And New Jersey law requires the provision of a “thorough and efficient” education to all New Jersey students.  However, you may not agree with a school district’s proposals or decisions.  For example, your child may be disciplined for an infraction that they did not commit, or they may be labeled as a bully with little to no evidence.  The school may refuse to provide your child with special education services that you think are necessary.  Or your school district may deny you access to public records or student records associated with your child’s education.  And even private schools are subject to the terms of their own contracts, as well as federal and state discrimination laws.

When you are confronted by a school board or a school administrator will not take your calls, it’s time to bring in an experienced education lawyer who will assert your legal rights, and ensure your right to participate in the planning and provision of education services, despite any circumstances and obstacles.

What is Education Law?

Education law falls under both federal and state levels that pertain to all aspects of education. The U.S. Department of Education sets standards for education, and individual states maintain those standards (or can exceed them), but they cannot contradict federal standards. Federal and state laws set standards in several areas, including:

  • Discrimination
  • Special education
  • Private education
  • Public education
  • Homeschool education
  • Montessori education
  • Licensure and credentialing
  • Administration
  • Civil rights
  • Contracts with public entities
  • The right of access to public records (including student records)

These all have a significant impact on educational institutions, as they can have a say in how schools create testing protocols, academic standards, financial matters, safety procedures, and personal liberties.

What Problems are Handled by an Education Lawyer?

An education lawyer can represent families, non-profit organizations, the government, or private-public interest firms, tackling various issues, including the following:

  • Special education: Every child with a disability who meets legal criteria is entitled to a free appropriate public education based on the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This means that school districts must offer children with special needs access to a full range of educational settings. When a school fails in that requirement, you may need to call a lawyer to ensure that your child gets the education they deserve.
  • Discrimination: Sometimes, schools fail to protect students from bullying, harassment, intimidation, or abuse due to their ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, race, economic condition, religion, or disability. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights makes these types of discrimination and harassment unlawful in the state. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also prohibits discrimination by any public entity that receives federal funds, including schools. When school boards fail to protect their students, a lawyer may be able to bring the matter to court.
  • School governance: This includes a variety of aspects, including employment and student records. Using the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), you have the right to receive copies of a student’s record if the school district is refusing to divulge the information. Other records, even if not related to your child, may also be publicly available under OPRA or the common law right to access to public records.
  • Bullying: The harassment of a student, by other students, by teachers, or by staff or administration, is illegal. School administrators are required to take the act of bullying very seriously. A lawyer can help put pressure on a school to ensure that a child receives their education in a safe environment. On the other hand, sometimes school districts in New Jersey will use the bullying laws as an excuse to take action not otherwise permissible.  And a lawyer can help you take action against that, too.
  • Residence disputes: Sometimes, parents claim to live in a particular town in which they do not actually reside to take advantage of that town’s local education. However, that practice puts a drain on the local school system and can cause overcrowding and increased costs. If you are facing such an accusation, you very likely need a lawyer to allow your child to continue their education in that district, especially if a school district is accusing you of wrongly sending your child to public schools, as they have the right to seek tuition for any period of improper attendance.
  • Athletic eligibility: High school sports can be a major element in your child’s education, and there are specific rules and regulations that dictate who is and who is not eligible to participate in these activities. You may disagree with a school or coach’s decision regarding athletic eligibility. A lawyer can help sort out the law and reach the proper resolution.
  • School discipline: When a school disciplines a student, they must follow certain rules and procedures. Often, parents are not aware of rules regarding school discipline. There are instances when a student may receive a suspension for a violation, but they might not receive due process. If you and your child are in this situation, it can be upsetting and stressful, but a lawyer can help ensure your child receives protection. And children with disabilities, who are classified and have an IEP, have special rights to consideration in the discipline context.

When you send your child to school, you have a certain level of expectations, including the quality of education they will receive and how they will be treated. When school officials fail in their mission, an education lawyer can ensure that they carry out their duties.

When Might I Need a New Jersey Education Lawyer?

You might feel confused when you are having problems with your child’s school. You want what is best for your child, and most teachers and other school staff do their best to provide a good education. You may not know when the line is crossed and when you need to hire the services of an education lawyer. You may need an education lawyer in the following circumstances:

  • When the Child Study Team fails to give your child appropriate special education services.
  • When a school refuses to accommodate your child who has a disability.
  • When a staff member at the school discriminates against your child.
  • When the school is trying to expel your child.
  • When the school unjustly disciplines your child.
  • When you want an unfair rule or regulation changed.

You should not hesitate to reach out to a lawyer when you have problems with the local school system.

What Rights Does My Child Have in School?

Students are entitled to certain protections under the law, and parents expect school officials to honor those rights. When you or your child’s rights are violated, an education lawyer can help.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that every citizen has the freedom of expression. That prohibits the government, and officials who represent the government, from curtailing any form of free speech. Public schools are funded by the government, which means that public school students retain their right to freedom of speech.

Your child still maintains rights when they enter a school building, although, certain rights are curtailed. A child has freedom of speech.  But if they speak or write on behalf of the school, the school may have the right to approve what is said beforehand. This limitation goes for writing for the school paper, a speech at graduation, or morning announcements over the loudspeaker.

Public school students have the right to express themselves. They can express dissatisfaction with the school and even petition school officials about issues. They can also form groups as well. Private schools do not represent the government, meaning those students are not directly protected by the First Amendment, but they are subject to a second layer of rules and regulations.

First Amendment protection is not absolute in schools. School officials have the right to prohibit speech that disrupts the school environment or infringes on another person’s rights. For example, hate speech would not be protected under the First Amendment.  And social media speech is a special issue, and has been the center of attention in recent case law in the US Supreme Court.

When it comes to more serious disciplinary charges, such as those that may result in suspension or worse, the student has a right to due process, and parents have a right to appeal any decision that is rendered, even in a private school. Once school officials make their decision, parents can appeal to the following:

  • Superintendent: They will hold an informal hearing and make a ruling.
  • School board: If the parents are not pleased with the superintendent’s decision, they can bring their case to the school board. Here, parents can confront witnesses, examine relevant documents, and make the argument to convince the board to overturn the superintendent’s decision.
  • The State Board of Education (Commissioner) If the parents disagree with the decision from the Board, they have the right to appeal to the Commissioner of Education.  If fact disputes have to be resolved, the case goes to an administrative court for a hearing.
  • Court: If parents are still not satisfied, they have the option to appeal the matter in court, however, they should know that the standard in court is quite high. For that reason, it is imperative to have an education lawyer early in the process.

New Jersey Education Lawyers at John Rue & Associates Value Your Child’s Right to Receive an Education in a Safe and Judgement-Free Environment

It can be frustrating and upsetting to learn that your child is not getting the education they deserve. Our New Jersey education lawyers at John Rue & Associates will help you rectify the situation. Call us at 862-283-3155 today for a free consultation. We serve clients throughout the state, having litigated against school boards in 15 of the 21 counties in New Jersey.  Our offices are located in Phillipsburg, Montclair, Ridgewood, Haddonfield, and Princeton, New Jersey.  We provide parents who may need an education lawyer with a free initial consultation (30 minutes by phone), and a more detailed consultation (90 minutes to three hours by Zoom) for a flat fee of $595.

John Rue & Associates, LLC
1 Fairview Avenue, Ste. 14
Phillipsburg, NJ 08865-1230


[email protected]

862-283-3155 (Phone)
973-860-0869 (Fax)