Public Education for Children with Disabilities
Children with disabilities are guaranteed by law the right to a free and appropriate public education. But sometimes it takes legal help to make it happen. Issues may vary from schools refusing to provide special education or related services or providing inappropriate services, violating state or federal regulations, student discipline, or placement issues.
Special Education is a very complex area of law, driven by the individualized needs of the special education student, regulated by ever-changing state and federal laws, and very often fueled by emotion, conflict, and uncertainty. Parents and guardians of children with disabilities should proceed with caution and if possible, should give serious consideration to hiring a lawyer specializing in special education.
In addition to local laws in your State, several federal laws govern special education specifically, with federal regulations that were drafted to support their implementation.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
- The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
Related Legal Terms
FAPE – Free Appropriate Public Education – a right guaranteed all American children
IEP – Individual Education Program – a written education program describing in measurable detail the specialized instruction to be provided to the student. The IEP is developed and overseen by the IEP Team during regular meetings where decisions about the educational program are made through consensus. Once the IEP is in final form, it is considered a legal document and must provide the student with FAPE.
Parental Consent – The requirement that parents give signed written consent to schools before the school may proceed with evaluations, placements, or release of records.
Parental Notification – The requirement that the school notify the parent(s) in their native language before proceeding with an initial referral for special education, results of tests or evaluations, the time and place of an IEP Team Meeting, implementation of the IEP, and any changes in the IEP.