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Legal Obligations

If your online learning program is a separate public or charter school that receives federal funding, your school has all of the same legal obligations incurred by any other public school. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is an excellent resource for in-depth information.

The primary federal laws of interest are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. These laws apply to virtual schools as fully as they do to brick and mortar schools.

The law is less clear about the obligations of supplemental online programs delivered within a traditional school setting. The same is true for online learning programs run by a consortium of school districts and, in some cases, virtual schools run by a state department of education. Because these programs do not clearly fall under the federal definition of a school, they may not be legally obligated to comply with certain requirements.

For example, all public schools are required to track and report demographic data, including demographic breakdown of student performance on standardized tests. However, supplemental online programs within a school and programs run by a consortium of schools, may not be required to track and report such data separately as long as the participating students are included in the data of the host school.