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Get to Know IDEA: The Nation's Special Education Law



One of the most important laws to know when dealing with Special Education is IDEA. You will see this law referenced often, so it will be useful to know it well.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is the federal special education law that ensures public schools meet the educational needs of students with disabilities. This law was first passed back in 1975 as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, signed by President Gerald Ford. The law was revised in 1997 and again in 2004.


This particular law enforces a number of requirements and safeguards set in place to protect both the parents’ and the students’ best interests. For instance, IDEA requires that schools provide students with the special education services mapped out in a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). It also mandates that every state enforces regulations that ensure how the law is implemented in every state. All states are required to provide all of the protections outlined in IDEA, at minimum.


IDEA also makes sure that parents have a chance to be directly involved in their child’s education. IDEA also allows parents to participate in all meetings regarding their child, examine their child’s school records, request independent evaluations, and help determine appropriate placement. IDEA aims to recognize the parent as the student’s strongest advocate, and an equal member of the IEP team.


In order for a student and parent to reap benefits and accommodations under IDEA, it must first be determined if the student is eligible for such services. To be eligible, a student must have a disability falling under one of the 13 categories that IDEA covers. Further, this disability must also be hindering their performance in school, making it so that the child needs these services to make progress in school.


Under IDEA, both the school and the parent are able to request a comprehensive evaluation for the student if it is suspected that the child may have a disability. The school has an affirmative duty to find and evaluate students with special education needs. However, the school may not conduct the evaluation without the parents’ permission.


Finally, part of this federal law addresses Individualized Education Programs. The IEP is a formal contract that describes the services and accommodations the school will provide to the student based on the child’s individual needs. This plan is reviewed and updated every year for as long as the student maintains eligibility for special education services—that is, until the student finishes high school or reaches 21 years of age.


If you feel that your child may be entitled to special education services, or more special education services, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Holloway and Kimberlin, LLC for a free consultation at any time.


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