Special Education Law


The purpose of IDEA is to ensure that children with disabilities are able to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that includes special education and related services that are designed to meet their individual needs and to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents or guardians are protected.

The law operates on the following principles:

Zero-Reject/Child Find: School systems cannot exclude children with disabilities from an appropriate education because of the nature or degree of their differences. The school system is responsible for identifying and providing appropriate educational services for each individual child. All states are required to implement this Child Find Procedure.

Parent-Participation: School systems are required to include parents in the decision-making process for their child’s special education services. They are required to provide notices before they make decisions and/or program changes, evaluations, to provide Individualized Education Program (IEPs), procedural Due Process, and protection and access to records.

Non-Discriminatory Testing, Classification, and Placement: Students with disabilities who may be eligible for special education services must be evaluated by a qualified multi-disciplinary team that includes at least one teacher or specialist with specific knowledge of the student disability. Testing instruments must be validated and assess specific areas of individual needs.

Individual Appropriate Education: Eligible special education students must be provided with appropriate Services delivered by qualified personnel with the appropriate training and delivered in facilities that provide full educational opportunities, and these services must be provided at no cost to parents. For students with disabilities, this includes appropriate teacher-student ratios, qualified teachers and support staff, appropriate educational materials and equipment, data-base instruction, functional and accessible curriculum content aligned with Core Curriculum Content or Core Standards, and transportation services as needed.
The school system is required to develop an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) for each child. The IEP is a written statement that includes the student’s present level of educational performance, his or her strength and educational needs, annual educational goals, and the education and related services, and the objective criteria and procedures to be used for evaluating whether or not objectives in the IEP are met.

Least Restrictive Environment: Students with disabilities, to the greatest extent possible, and whether they are educated in the local public schools, in approved private schools, or other facilities or agencies for students with disabilities, are to be educated with non-disabled peers and are to be provided the supports, modifications, and accommodations they need to do so. A full continuum of alternate placements must be available to meet the child’s needs.

Procedural Safeguards/Due Process: Processes must be in place to assure that children and families are provided the required participation in special education decision-making process and are treated fairly. Due Process includes the right to official notice and the opportunity to disagree and appeal decisions when parties don’t agree. Procedural Safeguards include parents’ rights to prior notice of each step in the process, descriptions, and consent for evaluation procedures and not on the student’s disability.

Students with disabilities are educated in the Least Restrictive Environment

  • The provision of special education and related services
  • The rights of students with disabilities and their parents are protected
  • Assistance is available for public and private agencies providing educational services to students with
  • disabilities and the evaluation of the effectiveness of the education of students with disabilities

These regulations provide significant details regarding the responsibilities of both parents and districts related to provision special education services, including eligibility criteria, IEP requirements, procedures for evaluations and reevaluations, least restrictive environment requirements, program options and criteria, program placement, personnel requirements and class size restrictions, discipline, suspension and expulsion, details of procedures and procedural safeguards, mediation and due process, testing, graduation, access to and protection of students’ records, fiscal management and state reporting and monitoring.