What a parent needs to know about Special Education Laws
There are two main laws that were created to protect students with disabilities in public school. It is important to note that each state interprets the laws with different perspectives, and each school system within each state interprets the laws. The law remains the same in each state, but the way in which a school system will enact the laws vary slightly. On rare occasions, a student may be found eligible for special education services in one district, then move to a nearby district and not be eligible for services.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
This law was enacted to ensure that students with disabilities are provided with opportunities to receive an appropriate education in public schools. Schools are required to create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for students with disabilities that qualify for Special Education Services.
This plan addresses modifications to instruction, types of instruction, and goals for the student. The law was enacted to help a student with a disability to be successful, who can not reasonably be successful without special education and related services. All public schools are required to ensure that all identified children with disabilities have the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
Parents need to understand that public education is required to provide appropriate education which is not the same as the best education.
Section 504 is less restrictive than IDEA, and is for a student who has a disability that is impacting a major life function. It is used when a student does not require special educational services, but could still benefit from certain classroom modifications within regular education due to the disability.
Children who do not require special education are still guaranteed access to related services if they qualify under Section 504, and the school must offer accommodations within regular education to help the child be successful.
- Know your rights!!! Get a copy of your rights from the school and ask for help if needed. The law is lengthy and difficult to read. Many states provide a parent’s guide to Special Education. Call the special services office in your school district and ask if there is a guide for parents available.
- Schools and parents share a common goal of wanting your child to succeed. Unfortunately schools and parents do not always agree on how to best serve every student. It is always important to try to keep a positive relationship with the school for the sake of your child. Schools are typically more willing to work with involved parents who know their rights and come to work as a team than overly demanding parents who are unwilling to listen to alternative ideas from the school. A positive home-school relationship is in the best interest of the child.