Since the 1960s, there has been a virtual avalanche of federal legislation that relates directly or indirectly to individuals with disabilities, particularly children and youth. Awareness of the laws that ensure equal opportunities to individuals with disabilities is vitally important for the following reasons:
Knowledge of the language and intention of the laws empowers families to advocate more effectively for their children and strengthens their ability to participate fully as partners in their children's educational teams.
As independence and self-sufficiency for individuals become increasingly important outcomes of special education, it is important that individuals with disabilities understand the laws and their implications for making decisions.
Knowledge of the laws can assist professionals in understanding the entire service delivery system, ensure protection of civil rights, and improve collaboration with other agencies and families.
Knowledge of the laws can help parents and professionals work together on behalf of children to make the equal education opportunity guaranteed by law a reality.
IDEA-The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
IDEA, the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, is our nation's special education law. The IDEA guides how states, school districts, and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.
IDEA was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like other children. The law has been revised many times over the years. The most recent amendments were passed by Congress in December 2004, with final regulations published in August 2006. So, in one sense, the law is very new, even as it has a long, detailed, and powerful history.
IDEA is divided into four parts, as follows:
Part A - General Provisions
Part B - Assistance for Education of All Children with Disabilities
Part C - Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities
Part D - National Activities to Improve Education of Children with Disabilities
NCLB-No Child Left Behind Act. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, Public Law (PL) 107-110, is the nation's latest general education law. It amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and is bringing sweeping changes to our educational systems. What does the law require, what does it change about education, how are states responding, and what does the law mean for children with disabilities? Want to read the actual law that Congress passed? www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/index.html
Other related education/Disability laws.
There are several related education/disability laws?beyond IDEA and NCLB?that support individuals with disabilities and their families.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and ADA.
Before there was IDEA, there was the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Section 504 of this Act continues to play an important role in education and served as a foundation for the development of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. This law applies to, among other entities, public elementary and secondary schools. Children with disabilities may be eligible for special education and related services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. That's because Section 504's definition of disability is broader than the IDEA's definition. Information on what the law requires of school districts can be found in the following resources:
What is an IEP? An IEP is an Individualized Education Program designed to detail and document the plan the school intends to use with your child who has been designated as a child in need of special education services.
The IEP should include a page dedicated to his "Present Level of Academic and Functional Performance". This page of the IEP list his strenghts, weaknesses, areas of needs, evaluations that were done. The IEP also contains a list of goals and objectives. Fist it lists the annual goal "Tommy will increase his reading skills" and then a list of measurable short-term benchmars (varies according to States) to enable the monitoring of progress towards the annual goals. The IEP also list the related services the child will be receiving (O.T., speech, physical therapy, etc.). The IEP is a contract between the school, child and parents, and cannot be modified without the parent expressed consent.
What happens if the school officials and the parents disagree about what the IEP should contain? You have 15 days to review the IEP and make the changes you deem fit. If you do not make changes within the 15 allotted days, the school district by law can implement the IEP. What is due process hearing? A due process is an administrative hearing that is used to resolve any issue that may exist between between parents and schools about the appropriateness of IEPs for special-needs students. Due process is very lengthy and can take up to 18 months.
What is FAPE? It stands for Free Appropriate Public Education. However, the definition of what is appropriate remains elusive. What does this word appropriate mean? By law you child is entitled to an appropriate education (not the best education). Many courts will argue that appropriate education is mere access to education. Because there is no clear definition of what is appropriate, in the case of due process school district claim that their program is appropriate and parents must hire experts witnesses to demonstrate that it is not appropriate. To understand the concepts -- FAPE v. maximizing or "best" - you should read the U. S. Supreme Court decision in Bd. of Educ. v. Rowley. What are some examples of related services that a school might offer a child? Requesting a related service should be based on the fact that your child needs the service in order to benefit from her/his educational program. You may request an evaluation for one of the following specific areas.