You have selected a Catholic education for your child. When your child needs a few accommodations, you are told that the school does not have the staff or other resources to deliver accommodations, and they are not legally required to provide accommodations and services, so you will have to go without or find another school. Can this be true?
The answer is, "yes and no."
If we are talking about services that are provided under the federal IDEA laws that ensure "free appropriate public education" to all students, then yes, because the Catholic School is not a public school, they are not required to provide services. This law, and the IEP plans that are written to define a student's services, are only required of schools that are publicly funded.
Furthermore, if we are talking about accommodations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is a religious institution exemption. This means that the legal system cannot be used to require the Catholic school to provide accommodations.
Jesus Says to Invite the Lame.
When his disciples tried to keep children away from Jesus, " Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matthew 19:14.) The Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities is clear that “to be loyal to its calling, to be truly pastoral, the parish must make sure that it does not exclude any Catholic who wishes to take part in its activities.” Specifically regarding education, the U.S. Catholic Bishops states that there is ”the right to equal opportunity in [Catholic] education.” Jesus instructs us "when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” Matthew 14:12-14. The feast of a Catholic education must fully include people with disabilities.
Jesus Demands the Talents of The Lame.
Students with disabilities do have God-given talents. Service to people with disabilities is "paid back" by service by the people with disabilities. In other words, people with disabilities also have talents, and "they have the same duty as all members of the community to do the Lord's work in the world, according to their God-given talents and capacity" (The Pastoral Statement). These talents should not be hidden in the ground, but should be worked and developed so that Jesus will say (to the students and the teachers), "'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’" (Matthew 14-30).
Parents Must Know Our Steadfast Love.
"No family is ever really prepared for the birth of a child with a disability. When such a child does come into the world, families often need strong support from their faith community. That support must remain firm with the passage of years. The path to independence can be difficult. Family members need to know that others stand with them, at least in spirit, as they help their children along this path” (The Pastoral Statement #15). Supporting these families demands our Catholic schools faithfully teach their children.
Jesus Says to Love One Another.
Jesus tells us to love one another. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). The apostle Paul teaches us "
Mari Franklin is a counselor at law who specializes in helping students secure accommodations at school.