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The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students with a disability be provided with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) customized to their individual needs. The Act provides substantial protections to students with disabilities in the educational system. One goal of IDEA is to provide children with disabilities an equal opportunity for education. It seems that schools should automatically provide a FAPE, but the reality is that with limited resources, parents often find themselves having to advocate to obtain necessary special educational services for their children.

Individual Education Plan

The IDEA requires that public schools collaborate and create an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each eligible student. Not all students with disabilities are eligible. Eligibility is sometimes obtained through parental advocacy. The IEP describes the student's present level of academic achievement and functional performance, and how the student's disabilities affect participation and results in the general education curriculum. The IEP also specifies customized educational services, accommodations and modifications that the school will provide. An IEP must be designed to meet the unique educational needs of each student in the least restrictive environment.

When a child qualifies for services, an IEP team designs an education plan. The team works together and shares knowledge to create a plan customized to each eligible student. The IEP team must include at least:

  • the child’s parents
  • one of the child's teachers
  • a special education teacher;
  • someone who can interpret the child's educational evaluation
  • any necessary service personnel
  • an administrator

The team goal is to determine what is necessary for each eligible child to ensure that he or she will receive a FAPE and to set that forth in a written document.

Free Appropriate Public Education

FAPE involves special education and related services that:

  • are provided at public expense
  • meet state requirements
  • provide an appropriate education; and
  • are consistent with the IEP

To provide FAPE, schools must provide students with an education that meets their unique needs and prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living. Each IEP is unique.

Least Restrictive Environment

To the maximum extent possible, children with disabilities must be educated with children who do not have disabilities. There is a two-part test for the least restrictive environment:

  • Can an appropriate education be achieved in the general education classroom with the use of supplementary aids and services?
  • If placed into a more restrictive setting, is the student integrated to the maximum extent appropriate?
Appropriate Evaluation

Schools conduct an evaluation to determine IEP eligibility. An evaluation should:

  • minimize the number of misidentifications
  • provide a variety of assessment tools and strategies
  • avoid placing too much emphasis on any single evaluation technique
  • provide protection against racially or culturally discriminatory evaluation measures
Parent and Teacher Participation

To achieve academic success, there must be both school and parent participation. Teamwork is key for the success of a student. It is essential for parents and teachers to communicate about education and to work as a team for the child’s benefit. Parents must be active participants in creating and modifying the IEP because parents know their children better than anyone else. Parents should regularly coordinate with the school and provide information and input.

If you would like assistance in ensuring that your child receives the educational services to which he/she is entitled, contact Janko Law and Mediation, LLC. Our firm understands the importance of ensuring that children have the best possible education to set them up for success in adult years and our attorneys have first-hand experience with their own children requiring assistance in the school system. Call for a free consult at 303-210-4204 or complete our confidential online intake.

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