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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law that governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education
Special Education in the United States
Special education programs in the United States were made mandatory in 1975 when the United States Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in response to discriminatory treatment by public educational agencies against students with disabilities...

, and related services to children with disabilities. It addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities from birth to age 18 or 21 in cases that involve 14 specified categories of disability.

The IDEA is "spending clause" legislation, meaning that it only applies to those States and their local educational agencies that accept federal funding under the IDEA. While States declining such funding are not subject to the IDEA, all States have accepted funding under this statute and are subject to it.

The IDEA and its predecessor statute, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act
Education for All Handicapped Children Act
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was enacted by the United States Congress in 1975. This act required all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education and one free meal a day for children with physical and mental disabilities...

, arose from federal case law holding the deprivation of free public education to disabled children constitutes a deprivation of due process. It has grown in scope and form over the years. IDEA has been reauthorized and amended a number of times, most recently in December 2004, which contained several significant amendments. Its terms are further defined by regulations of the United States Department of Education, which are found in Parts 300 and 301 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations
Code of Federal Regulations
The Code of Federal Regulations is the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government of the United States.The CFR is published by the Office of the Federal Register, an agency...


In defining the purpose of special education, IDEA 2004 clarifies Congress’ intended outcome for each child with a disability: students must be provided a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that prepares them for further education, employment and independent living.
Under IDEA 2004:
  • Special education and related services should be designed to meet the unique learning needs of eligible children with disabilities, preschool through age 21.
  • Students with disabilities should be prepared for further education, employment and independent living.


Before the EHA statute (The Education for All Handicapped Children Act) was enacted in 1975, U.S. public schools educated only 1 out of 5 children with disabilities. Until that time, many states had laws that explicitly excluded children with certain types of disabilities from attending public school, including children who were blind, deaf, and children labeled "emotionally disturbed" or "mentally retarded." At the time the EHA was enacted, more than 1 million children in the U.S. had no access to the public school system. Many of these children lived at state institutions where they received limited or no educational or rehabilitation services. Another 3.5 million children attended school but were “warehoused” in segregated facilities and received little or no effective instruction.

As of 2006, more than 6 million children in the U.S. receive special education services through IDEA.

Historical Context

In 1954, the established educational format in the United States of segregating black and white students into separate schools was deemed unconstitutional by Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). This caused a great deal of unrest in the political sphere and marks a gateway moment in the Civil Rights Movement. Although not highlighted extensively in US history classes, education was a large part of the Civil Rights controversy.

The years that led up to the formation of Education for All Handicapped Children Act
Education for All Handicapped Children Act
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was enacted by the United States Congress in 1975. This act required all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education and one free meal a day for children with physical and mental disabilities...

 of 1975 were marked by strife in the United States. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 in Dallas, Texas (Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Assassination of John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas...

), the Vietnam war
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 was ongoing from 1955 until 1975. On top of those events, the Civil Rights Movement was in full force in the United States. From schools being integrated to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, from Greensboro sit-ins to marches on Washington, equal rights for all was a prevalent ideal. President Kennedy showed interest in mental retardation studies and President Johnson used Federal funds to increase research on “at-risk” youth. Early intervention programs for children living in low socioeconomic situations, such as Head Start Head Start Program, began showing up around the country. Education was soon at the forefront of many political agendas.

The first educational sector to argue for access to equal educational opportunities for all students was the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC), which sued Pennsylvania in 1972 for not providing equal access to educational opportunities to children with disabilities. Soon after this, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 established that Federal programs could not discriminate on the basis of disabilities. However, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 forced parents to take any cases to the court system. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act
Education for All Handicapped Children Act
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was enacted by the United States Congress in 1975. This act required all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education and one free meal a day for children with physical and mental disabilities...

 created a system for these cases to be received and resolved without involving the court system in an effort to decrease the litigation costs associated with filing a claim.

27 years later, in 1990, the EHA was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in order to place more focus on the individual, as opposed to a condition that individual may have. The IDEA also had many improvements on the EHA, such as:
Promotes research and technology
Details on transition programs for students post-high school
Programs that educate children in their neighborhood schools, as opposed to separate schools
Details about the IDEA can be viewed in subsections below.

Eligibility for services

Having a disability does not automatically qualify a student for special education services under the IDEA. The disability must result in the student needing additional or different services to participate in school.

IDEA defines a "child with a disability" as a "child... with mental retardation
Mental retardation
Mental retardation is a generalized disorder appearing before adulthood, characterized by significantly impaired cognitive functioning and deficits in two or more adaptive behaviors...

, hearing impairment
Hearing impairment
-Definition:Deafness is the inability for the ear to interpret certain or all frequencies of sound.-Environmental Situations:Deafness can be caused by environmental situations such as noise, trauma, or other ear defections...

s (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance..., orthopedic impairments, autism
Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their...

, traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injury , also known as intracranial injury, occurs when an external force traumatically injures the brain. TBI can be classified based on severity, mechanism , or other features...

, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; AND, who... [because of the condition] needs special education and related services."

Children with disabilities who qualify for special education are also automatically protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, all modifications that can be provided under Section 504 or the ADA can be provided under the IDEA if included in the student's IEP.

Students with disabilities who do not qualify for special education services under the IDEA may qualify for accommodations or modifications under Section 504 and under the ADA. Their rights are protected by due process procedure requirements.

The zero reject rule was affirmed in Parks v. Pavkovic, 753 F.2d 1397 (7th Cir.1985) and Timothy W. v. Rochester School District 875 F.2d 954 (1st Cir. 1989). The courts have ruled that even if the student is completely incapable of benefiting from educational services and all efforts are futile—even if the child is unconscious or in a coma
In medicine, a coma is a state of unconsciousness, lasting more than 6 hours in which a person cannot be awakened, fails to respond normally to painful stimuli, light or sound, lacks a normal sleep-wake cycle and does not initiate voluntary actions. A person in a state of coma is described as...

—the school is still required to provide educational services to the child.

Individualized Education Program

The act requires that public schools create an Individualized Education Program
Individualized Education Program
In the United States an Individualized Education Program, commonly referred to as an IEP, is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act...

 (IEP) for each student who is found to be eligible under both the federal and state eligibility/disability standards. The IEP is the cornerstone of a student's educational program. It specifies the services to be provided and how often, describes the student's present levels of performance and how the student's disabilities affect academic performance, and specifies accommodations and modifications to be provided for the student.

An IEP must be designed to meet the unique educational needs of that one child in the Least Restrictive Environment
Least Restrictive Environment
As part of the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the least restrictive environment is identified as one of the six principles that govern the education of students with disabilities and other special needs...

 appropriate to the needs of that child. That is, the least restrictive environment in which the child learns.
When a child qualifies for services, an IEP team is convened to design an education plan. In addition to the child’s parents, the IEP team must include at least one of the child’s regular education teachers (if applicable), a special education teacher, someone who can interpret the educational implications of the child’s evaluation, such as a school psychologist, any related service personnel deemed appropriate or necessary, and an administrator or CSE (Committee of Special Education) representative who has adequate knowledge of the availability of services in the district and the authority to commit those services on behalf of the child. Parents are considered to be equal members of the IEP team along with the school staff. And of course, parents have fundamental rights as parents.
Based on the full educational evaluation results, this team collaborates to write an IEP for the individual child, one that will provide a free, appropriate public education. The required content of an IEP is described in Individualized Education Program
Individualized Education Program
In the United States an Individualized Education Program, commonly referred to as an IEP, is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act...


Related services

The definition of related services in the IDEA includes, but is not limited to: transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, music therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and *mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. The term also includes school health services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.

Free Appropriate Public Education

Guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), FAPE is defined as an educational program that is individualized to a specific child, designed to meet that child's unique needs, and from which the child receives educational benefit.
To provide FAPE, schools must provide students with an “… education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.”

Some of the criteria specified in various sections of the IDEA statute includes requirements that schools provide each disabled student an education that:
  • Is designed to meet the unique needs of that one student
  • Provides “ …access to the general curriculum to meet the challenging expectations established for all children” (that is, it meets the approximate grade-level standards of the state educational agency)
  • Is provided in accordance with the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as defined in 1414(d)(3).
  • Results in educational benefit to the child.

Least Restrictive Environment

The U.S. Dept. Education, 2005a regulations implementing IDEA states:
"...to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities including children in public or private institutions or care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled; and special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily."

Simply put, the LRE is the environment most like that of typical children in which the child with a disability can succeed academically (as measured by the specific goals in the student's IEP). This refers to the two questions decided upon in Daniel R. R. v. State Board of Education, 874 F.2D 1036 (5th Cir. 1989).

This court, relying on Roncker, also developed a two-part test for determining if the LRE requirement is met. The test poses two questions:
  1. Can an appropriate education in the general education classroom with the use of supplementary aids and services be achieved satisfactorily?
  2. If a student is placed in a more restrictive setting, is the student "integrated" to the "maximum extent appropriate"? (Standard in AL, DE, GA, FL, LA, MS, NJ, PA, TX).

Discipline of a child with a disability

Pursuant to IDEA, when disciplining a child with a disability, one must take that disability into consideration to determine the appropriateness of the disciplinary actions. For example, if a child with Autism
Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their...

 is sensitive to loud noises, and she runs out of a room filled with loud noises due to sensory overload, appropriate disciplinary measure for that behavior (running out of the room)must take into account the child's disability; such as avoiding punishments that involve loud noises. Moreover, an assessment should be made as to whether appropriate accommodations were in place to meet the needs of the child.

According to the United States Department of Education
United States Department of Education
The United States Department of Education, also referred to as ED or the ED for Education Department, is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government...

, in cases of children with disabilities who have been suspended for 10 or more days for each school year (including partial days), the local education agency (LEA) must hold a manifestation determination hearing within 10 school days of any decision to change the placement of a child resulting from of a violation of code of student conduct. The Stay Put law states that a child shall not be moved from his or her current placement or interim services into an alternative placement if the infraction was deemed to cause danger to other students. The LEA, the parent, and relevant members of the individualized education program (IEP) team (as determined by the parent and LEA) shall review all relevant information in the student's file, including the child's IEP, any teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents to determine if the conduct in question was:
  • Caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child's disability; or
  • The direct result of the LEA's failure to implement the IEP.

If the LEA, the parent, and relevant members of the IEP team make the determination that the conduct was a manifestation of the child’s disability, the IEP team shall:
  • Conduct a functional behavioral assessment and implement a behavioral intervention plan for such child, provided that the LEA had not conducted such assessment prior to such determination before the behavior that resulted in a change in placement described in Section 615(k)(1)(C) or (G);
  • In the situation where a behavioral intervention plan has been developed, review the behavioral intervention plan if the child already has such a behavioral intervention plan, and modify it, as necessary, to address the behavior; and
  • Except as provided in Section 615(k)(1)(G), return the child to the placement from which the child was removed, unless the parent and the LEA agree to a change of placement as part of the modification of the behavior intervention plan.

If it is determined that a student's behavior is a manifestation of his or her disability, then he or she may not be suspended or expelled. However, under IDEA 2004,if a student "brings a weapon to school or a school function; or knowingly possess, uses, or sells illegal drugs or controlled substances at school or a school function"; or causes "serious bodily injury upon another person," he or she my be placed in an interim alternate educational setting (IAES) for up to 45 school days. This allows the student to continue receiving educational services while the IEP team has time to determine the appropriate placement and the appropriate course of action including reviewing the FBA and the BIP.

Child Find

Public school districts are responsible for identifying all students with disabilities within their districts, regardless of whether they are attending public schools, since private institutions may not be funded for providing accommodations under IDEA.

Procedural safeguards

IDEA includes a set of procedural safeguards designed to protect the rights of children with disabilities and their families, and to ensure that children with disabilities receive a FAPE. The procedural safeguards include the opportunity for parents to review their child's full educational records; full parent participation in identification and IEP team meetings; parent involvement in placement decisions; Prior Written Notice; the right of parents to request independent educational evaluations at public expense; Notice of Procedural Safeguards; Resolution Process; and objective mediation funded by the state education agency and impartial Due Process Hearings.
IDEA guarantees the following rights to parents:
  • Right to be informed in writing of the Procedural Safeguards (There is a booklet)

This booklet is to be provided in the following instances * On the first complaint or request for an evaluation
  • Upon the request of a parent or guardian
  • If a complaint is filed with the department of education
  • Upon your child having their school changed as a result of disciplinary action against your child

The professional safeguard booklet titled, Whose Idea Is This? A Parent’s Guide to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 outlines the expectations and responsibilities of the parents as well as the expectations and legal responsibilities of the teachers, administration and school district.
  • Right to review all educational records.
  • To be equal partners on the IEP team, along with the school staff. To participate in all aspects of planning their child’s education.
  • To file complaints with the state education agency
  • Request mediation, or a due process hearing
  • At this time, parents may present an alternative IEP and their witnesses (experts and others), to support their case.
  • These hearings are Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) hearings and can be appealed. This is not a trial.

The entire goal of this process is to make the evaluation and, if needed, implementation of an IEP a joint venture between the students guardians and the school, with the goal of providing the education services needed to aid instruction in a general classroom setting, or other setting if needed.
The booklet outlines a seven step process to determine a student’s educational needs and the services that they require:
  • Request for assistance: Parents may contact the schools to discuss potential learning concerns that they may have and the school contacts home if they believe the child is struggling due to a disability.
  • Request for evaluation: Here a parent may request, in writing, for a formal evaluation of the student with the school to determine if the student has any educational disabilities.
  • Evaluation: Students are typically evaluated on the following items, although additional areas can be examined upon parent or school request: Health, vision, hearing, social and emotional development, general intelligence, academic performance, communication abilities and motor abilities.
  • Development of an IEP: In accordance with the findings of the evaluation and in joint collaboration between parents and school a plan of action to aid the student is created. At this time a parent must also provide consent to the plan and guidelines that are created as part of the IEP
  • Annual Review: As part of IDEA it is mandated that a child’s IEP is reviewed at least once a year. This is a chance for parents and school personal to comment on the effectiveness of the plan and to decide on an appropriate future course of action.
  • Re-evaluation: Allows for a student to have their educational needs reassessed by school personal if a parent does not agree with the findings of the initial evaluation
  • Independent educational evaluation: This is a parent action that informs the school that they disagree with the schools evaluation of their child. From here it may be required that an independent, non-school affiliated team, evaluates the child in order to determine the child’s educational needs.

Early intervention

The Education for all Handicapped children Act of 1975 started the course of action for early intervention programs. In this act, public schools that received federal funding were required to provide equal access to education for children with disabilities.

On September 6, 2011, the US Department of Education updated the IDEA to include specific interventions for children of ages 2 and under that have disabilities. This section of the IDEA is entitled Part C and serves children with developmental delays or children that have conditions that may lead to developmental delays in the future. Part C is a $436 million initiative that will be administered at the state level.

On September 28, 2011, the Department of Education published an article in the Federal Register detailing the updates that have been made to Part C of the IDEA. The regulations are effective on October 28, 2011. Major changes in the regulations are detailed below:
  • The definition of multidisciplinary has been revised to respect aspects of an updated individualized family service plan (IFSP) team.
  • Native language is the language normally used by the parents of the child for any child that is deemed limited English proficient
  • State’s applications to must include how the State plans to follow the payor of last resort requirements in Section 303.511
  • Distinguishes between pre-referral, referral, and post-referral IFSP activities such as screening, evaluations, assessments, IFSP development, etc.
  • Specifies that early identification information in provided in the native languages of various population groups in the State
  • State must report to the public the performance of each Early Intervention System program in relation to the State’s Annual Performance Report

More specific details on Early Intervention requirements are found below.

Part C of IDEA

An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is an early intervention program set up for children with disabilities between the child’s birth and the age of 3. The IFSP stems from Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part C of IDEA is the program that awards grants to every state in the United States to provide early intervention services to children from birth to age 3 who have disabilities and to their families. Part C of IDEA also allows states to provide these services to the children who do not necessarily have disabilities, but developmental delays instead. As long as the participating state provides early intervention that is available to every eligible child and the respective family, the state is expected to make their own definition of developmental delay. Lastly, services from Part C are not necessarily free. With these conditions laid out by Part C of IDEA, the Individualized Family Service Plan ensures these conditions.

Goals for an IFSP

The goal of an IFSP for a child is to provide services, aligned with the goal of the family, for a child with a disability between birth and the age of 3. After the child and the child’s family have been identified to be potentially eligible to receive an IFSP, the child will undergo a comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment. If qualified, an IFSP is then created and written for the child and the child’s family. An IFSP will outline the following:
  1. The child's current levels of physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, and adaptive development.
  2. The family's resources, priorities, and concerns to help develop the child.
  3. The desired end result for the child and for the family, as well as the steps needed to achieve said end result. If the family chooses to revise the plan, they should include so as newly revised additions to the plan.
  4. The early intervention services for the child and the family. This includes how often and the method of how the child and the family will receive the services.
  5. The different environments that the services could apply to. For example, the family might have requested to receive services for the child at a day care center environment.
  6. The date the services will begin and their anticipated duration.
  7. The identification of the service coordinator, from the profession most immediately relevant to the infant's or toddler's family's needs, who will be responsible for the coordination and implementation of the plan with the other agencies and persons.
  8. The steps to be taken to support the transition of the toddler with a disability to preschool or other appropriate services.

In summary, a key to an effective IFSP is to include outcomes that “address the entire family’s well-being and not only outcomes designed to benefit the child’s development.” For this reason, the IFSP will inherently have goals that are designed for the family as well as for the child. The service provider of the IFSP should prioritize the family’s concerns from the family’s perspective and not from the child’s perspective. For example, a child might not have fully developed language skills by the age of 3. Although this is critical for the child, this may not be an immediate need for the family because the family might have more urgent family needs before the child needs to improve his/her language skills. Thus, the IFSP should address the family’s needs first before addressing the child’s need, as an example.

Role of the Service Coordinator

A service coordinator will be assigned to a family who qualifies for an IFSP. The service coordinator helps the family throughout the whole process of the IFSP, whether it be the planning, the executing, or the evaluating of the plan. The service coordinator is to help the family receive the services as explained by the IFSP until the child turns three or until the child no longer needs any early intervention services. The service coordinator is free to families. The responsibilities of a service coordinator should include:
  1. Providing verbal and written information in the family's native language.
  2. Coordinating the performance of evaluations and assessments.
  3. Facilitating and participating in the development, review and evaluation of the IFSP, assuring that the family's priorities are being addressed.
  4. Identifying and facilitating the delivery of appropriate and available supports, services, resources and advocacy services.
  5. Coordinating with medical and health providers when needed.
  6. Initiating transition planning when the child is two and a half years old.

Differences between IFSP and IEP

It should be noted that when writing the IFSP for a child, the IFSP can (but not always) cover services that are not outlined by part C of the IDEA. For example, a child may need special medical services that are in other parts of IDEA other than Part C. If this is the case, the IFSP will still cover those needed services along with how those services will be funded. The Individualized Family Service Plan is different compared to an Individual Education Plan in many key ways:
  1. The IFSP centers around the family and not solely on the child with the disability. In an IEP, the plan is centered (arguably) completely on the needs of the child.
  2. The IFSP will have goals and outcomes for the family situation. The IEP has goals and outcomes only on the child.
  3. The IFSP includes services to help a family in other settings besides just in a school. This could include helping the family with the child with the disability during child care, gym classes, or at parks. The IEP provides services solely on what happens at school grounds
  4. The IFSP covers services that a child might need outside of just Part C of IDEA.
  5. The IFSP assigns a service coordinator to assist the family when the IFSP is being developed, executed, and evaluated.

Department of Education Regulations

In addition to the Federal law, the U.S. Department of Education publishes regulations that clarifies what the law means. States may add more provisions to further regulate how schools provide services, but they cannot reverse any provision specifically included in the federal statute.

Alignment with No Child Left Behind

The reauthorization of IDEA in 2004 revised the statute to align with the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB allows financial incentives to states who improve their special education services and services for all students. States who do not improve must refund these incentives to the federal government, allow parents choice of schools for their children, and abide by other provisions. Some states are still reluctant to educate special education students and seek remedies through the courts. However, IDEA and NCLB are still the laws of the land to date.

In looking to align NCLB and the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA there are a few key areas of alignment: requirement highly qualified teachers, establishment of goals for students with special needs and assessment levels for these students.
The alignment of NCLB and IDEA requires that all special education teachers be highly qualified. While the standards for being highly qualified may different between state or school district the minimum requirements are that a teacher holds a bachelor’s degree from a four year college, is certified and licensed to teach by the state and has taken the necessary tests to indicate competency in ones subject area,
although special education teachers are often exempt from such testing. It should be noted that these requirements for highly qualified teachers do not always exist for private schools, elementary or secondary. Next, goals and assessments must be provided that align with students educational needs. A state is allowed to develop alternate or modified assessments for students in special education programs but benchmarks and progress must still be met on these tests that indicate adequate yearly progress (AYP). In addition, these goals and assessments must be aligned similarly to students enrolled in general education. Finally, in order to make AYP schools may additionally require that schools met state standards of student retention, in terms of dropout rates and graduate rates for their special education students.

Criticisms from taxpayers

  • There are no exceptions to IDEA: no child is so severely disabled as to not qualify for educational services under IDEA. Even children who are in a permanent vegetative state or suffering from similarly severe brain damage still qualify for a Free Appropriate Public Education. This means that schools can be required to provide "educational" services to children who have no capacity for voluntary movement, no ability to communicate, and no indication that they recognize their own names or their parents' faces.
  • Under the "related services" clause, schools are specifically required to pay for many kinds of medical treatments, including speech therapy, audiology
    Audiology is the branch of science that studies hearing, balance, and related disorders. Its practitioners, who treat those with hearing loss and proactively prevent related damage are audiologists. Employing various testing strategies Audiology (from Latin , "to hear"; and from Greek , -logia) is...

    , physical therapy
    Physical therapy
    Physical therapy , often abbreviated PT, is a health care profession. Physical therapy is concerned with identifying and maximizing quality of life and movement potential within the spheres of promotion, prevention, diagnosis, treatment/intervention,and rehabilitation...

    , and nursing
    Nursing is a healthcare profession focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life from conception to death....

    , if the medical treatment is expected to help the student's education. There is no requirement that private health insurance be used when available. (A subsequent statutory exception relieved schools of the duty to pay for certain kinds of surgery, such as cochlear implants.)

Criticisms from schools

  • Excessive procedures and paperwork requires teacher time that would be better spent teaching
  • School staff often state beliefs that IDEA protects children and parents but not districts, schools and teachers
  • Parents request services for their children for which their children do not qualify based on local, state and federal guidelines.

Teachers and administrators then often deal with anger from parents who do not understand or do not agree with the regulations by which the school must abide.
  • Providing mandated educational and related services is expensive and reduces schools' ability to educate regular education students
  • Unfunded mandate. When originally passed in 1975, congress established a maximum funding level for the program of 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure of American students. This was a rough proxy for the estimated additional cost of educating a student with disabilities. Some have construed this as promise that the federal government would fund that amount spending. To date, despite massive increases in Part B funding, Congress has never provided more than 30 percent.

Criticisms from students and parents

  • Parents criticize schools for not following laws in designing and implementing education plans. Enforcement is scarce and ineffective.
  • Impartial Due Process hearing officers are not impartial
  • Districts spend thousands of dollars fighting against parents who want services for their children rather than providing the services, which are often much less expensive than the attorney's fees.
  • Schools and districts may retaliate against families who advocate for their children, sometimes retaliating against the children themselves. Such retaliation may include reporting the special needs child and family to the local state Child Protective Services, sometimes in an attempt to blame the "home environment" as being abusive or neglectful in order to shift blame away from the school for the child's failure to progress or regression at school. The school may claim that there was "evidence" of abuse and neglect, including dirty clothing, holes in clothing, poorly nutritious lunches given to child by parents, child's nosebleeds or a child's self-injurious behavior seen at school. Sometimes schools will report on a special needs child but not his/her non-disabled sibling. These actions often appear to be for retaliation and harassment purposes rather than based in fact.
  • Schools label children as "learning disabled" and place them in special education even if the child does not have a learning disability, because the schools have failed to teach the children basic skills.
  • Parents do not know how to prepare an IEP to counter inadequate IEPs prepared by schools.
  • Some students do not obtain effective transition skills and information necessary for when they exit special education, and out into the real world. They are essentially dumped without necessarily any idea of the available community resources, infrastructure, and/or policies.
  • Minorities, particularly African-Americans, are over-identified as having learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, and mental retardation.

African-Americans over-identified with learning disabilities

There is a disproportionate amount of African-Americans in special education
Learning disability
Learning disability is a classification including several disorders in which a person has difficulty learning in a typical manner, usually caused by an unknown factor or factors...

 juxtapose the general American in school system. Socioeconomic status
Socioeconomic status
Socioeconomic status is an economic and sociological combined total measure of a person's work experience and of an individual's or family’s economic and social position in relation to others, based on income, education, and occupation...

, geography, and culture play a role in this dis-proportionality among other factors.

There is a strong correlation between socio-economic status and special education diagnosis. Those living in poverty are less exposed to certain societal experiences, and a higher percentage of those living in poverty are African-Americans. High intelligence quotient
Intelligence quotient
An intelligence quotient, or IQ, is a score derived from one of several different standardized tests designed to assess intelligence. When modern IQ tests are constructed, the mean score within an age group is set to 100 and the standard deviation to 15...

 (IQ) is linked to exposure of mainstream culture among other indicators. Because children living in poverty are less exposed to certain experiences, they are at greater risk for not performing well on exams such as IQ tests. This then makes these students more likely to be referred for special education, and once a referral has been made the placement or admittance into special education services soon follows at high numbers.

There is also a widely-held belief that some exams that are administered to determine if a student has a disability are culturally biased and gender biased.. There is a body of research that supports this view, although there is also support that not all norm-referenced tests are in fact biased. There can also be a lack of cultural competency
Cultural competence
Cultural competence refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures, particularly in the context of human resources, non-profit organizations, and government agencies whose employees work with persons from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds.Cultural competence...

 between the learning styles of African-American students and their educators & school systems.

Addressing Dis-proportionality

Every state is required under IDEIA to provide data to ensure that dis proportionality is not occurring. The issue is that there is no guideline on how that data should be analyzed. The Office of Special Education Programs
Office of Special Education Programs
Originally created as the Bureau of the Education of the Handicapped, the Office of Special Education Programs is part of the U.S. Department of Education. OSEP provides leadership and support for professionals working with children with disabilities. Another critical role of OSEP is to protect...

 (OSEP) met in 2003 and 2004 to use risk-ratio and determine its challenges, while also addressing them. Insight on how data is being collected and analyzed can shed light on where and how the dis-proportionality is occurring and how to curtail them if they are.

IDEA 2004 also put in place indicators to prevent the over-diagnosis of students with disabilities The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction created a Checklist to Address Disproportionality (CADSE) in order to increase awareness of over-diagnosis and put systems in place that prevent the continued cycles of over-identification. An important component of this checklist is cultural competency. Efforts continue to be made on a local, state, and national level to prevent over-identification in special education.

Legal Rights

There are resources available to safeguard and protect students and families with disabilities. Parents must be asked if they want their child evaluated for special needs testing. If a parent feels that their child has been misdiagnosed or has been discriminated against for a particular reason including race or language, they have the right to filed with the Office of Civil Rights. There are legal service providers in each state that can be accessed through the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems. There are also resources to help parents in understanding their rights through the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.

Legislative History

1975 — The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) became law. It was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990.

1990— IDEA first came into being on October 30, 1990 when the "Education of All Handicapped Children Act" (itself having been introduced in 1975) was renamed "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act." (Pub. L. No. 101-476, 104 Stat. 1142). IDEA received minor amendments in October 1991 (Pub. L. No. 102-119, 105 Stat. 587).

1997— IDEA received significant amendments. The definition of disabled children expanded to include developmentally delayed children between three and nine years of age. It also required parents to attempt to resolve disputes with schools and Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) through mediation
Mediation, as used in law, is a form of alternative dispute resolution , a way of resolving disputes between two or more parties. A third party, the mediator, assists the parties to negotiate their own settlement...

, and provided a process for doing so. The amendments authorized additional grants for technology, disabled infants and toddlers, parent training, and professional development. (Pub. L. No. 105-17, 111 Stat. 37).

2004— On December 3, 2004, IDEA was amended by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, now known as IDEIA. Several provisions aligned IDEA with the No Child Left Behind Act
No Child Left Behind Act
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is a United States Act of Congress concerning the education of children in public schools.NCLB was originally proposed by the administration of George W. Bush immediately after he took office...

 of 2001, signed by President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

. It authorized fifteen states to implement 3-year IEPs on a trial basis when parents continually agree. Drawing on the report of the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education, the law revised the requirements for evaluating children with learning disabilities. More concrete provisions relating to discipline of special education students was also added. (Pub. L. No. 108-446, 118 Stat. 2647).

2009— Following a campaign promise for "funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act", President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, abbreviated ARRA and commonly referred to as the Stimulus or The Recovery Act, is an economic stimulus package enacted by the 111th United States Congress in February 2009 and signed into law on February 17, 2009, by President Barack Obama.To...

 (ARRA) on February 17, 2009, including $12.2 billion in additional funds.

Schaffer v. Weast

On November 14, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49, that moving parties in a placement challenge hold the burden of persuasion. While this is an accord with the usual legal thinking, the moving party is almost always the parents of a child.

Arlington v. Murphy

On June 26, 2006 the Supreme Court held in Arlington Central School Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Murphy
Arlington Central School Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Murphy
Arlington Central School District Board of Education v. Murphy, 548 U.S. 291 , was a United States Supreme Court case about experts' fees in cases commenced under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act . Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, ruled that IDEA does not authorize...

, 548 U.S. 291, that prevailing parents may not recover expert witness fees as part of the costs under 20 U.S.C.§ 1415(i)(3)(B).

Winkelman v. Parma City School District

On May 21, 2007 the Supreme Court held in Winkelman v. Parma City School District
Winkelman v. Parma City School District
Winkelman v. Parma City School District, 550 U.S. 516 , is a civil suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. Justice Kennedy held for the seven-justice majority that parents may file suit under IDEA pro se...

, 550 U.S. 516, that parents have independent enforceable rights under the IDEA and may appear pro se on behalf of their children.

Forest Grove School District v. T.A.

The case of Forest Grove School District v. T.A.
Forest Grove School District v. T.A.
Forest Grove School District v. T. A., 129 S.Ct. 2484 , is a case in which the United States Supreme Court held that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act authorizes reimbursement for private special education services when a public school fails to provide a "free appropriate public...

, 129 S.Ct. 2484, argued before the Supreme Court on April 28, 2009, addressed the issue of whether the parents of a student who has never received special education
Special education
Special education is the education of students with special needs in a way that addresses the students' individual differences and needs. Ideally, this process involves the individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, adapted equipment and materials,...

 services from a public school district are potentially eligible for reimbursement of private school
Private school
Private schools, also known as independent schools or nonstate schools, are not administered by local, state or national governments; thus, they retain the right to select their students and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students' tuition, rather than relying on mandatory...

Tuition payments, known primarily as tuition in American English and as tuition fees in British English, Canadian English, Australian English, New Zealand English and Indian English, refers to a fee charged for educational instruction during higher education.Tuition payments are charged by...

 for that student under the IDEA. On June 22, 2009 the Supreme Court held that parents of disabled children can seek reimbursement for private education expenses regardless whether their child had previously received special-education services from a public school. By a vote of six to three, the Court held that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) authorizes reimbursement whenever a public school fails to make a free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to a disabled child.

Cedar Rapids Community School Dist. v. Garret F.

RULE: Continuing nursing services is "related service" that district must provide under IDEA
  • Ventilator-dependent student needs nurse/attendant with him all day and parents want school to pay for this nurse/attendant.

School says no, thinking this isn't a legal obligation (to provide 1:1 nursing).
  • TEST applied (from Tatro)
  • Related service? Yes: help kids benefit from school
  • Medical service exemption? No, school nurse services not covered by exemption (pretty much only services covered by a doctor can be excluded). This is a service which must be paid for by the school. Cost of service is not a factor in determining whether it is required by IDEA. There is no undue burden exemption.

See also

  • Education for All Handicapped Children Act
    Education for All Handicapped Children Act
    The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was enacted by the United States Congress in 1975. This act required all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education and one free meal a day for children with physical and mental disabilities...

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Hawaii
    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Hawaii
    -Early Intervention: for Children Under the Age 3:Early Intervention is a federal and state-mandated program that provides services to support the development of infant and toddlers from birth to three years of age...

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
    Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
    The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 is a United States federal law.It allows students with access to their education records, an opportunity to seek to have the records amended, and some control over the disclosure of information from the records...

  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
    Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
    Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE, is an educational right of children with disabilities in the United States that is guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act...

  • Individualized Education Program
    Individualized Education Program
    In the United States an Individualized Education Program, commonly referred to as an IEP, is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act...

  • Learning disability
    Learning disability
    Learning disability is a classification including several disorders in which a person has difficulty learning in a typical manner, usually caused by an unknown factor or factors...

External links