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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The IDEA was reauthorized in 2004 and incorporates elements of the No Child Left Behind Act (“NCLB”) in order to ensure accountability, flexibility, better options for parents and families, and emphasis on improving student achievement. A child can only be protected under the IDEA after he or she has been determined eligible for special education and related services.


The purpose of the IDEA is to guarantee children with disabilities a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in the least restrictive environment (“LRE”).

“To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.”
20 U.S.C.§1400(d)(1)(A)

Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”)

The IDEA defines FAPE as special education and related services that:

1) Have been provided at public expense, under public supervision, and without charge;
2) Meet the standards of the State educational agency;
3) Include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and
4) Are provided in conformity with the individualized education program required under Section 1414(d) of this title.
20 U.S.C.§1401(9)

FAPE was clearly defined by the Supreme Court’s decision in Rowley. For more information, click here.

Least Restrictive Environment (“LRE”)

“To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”
20 U.S.C.§1412(a)(5)(A)

LRE is dependent on the unique needs of the child, so schools must have a variety of services available. For more information, click here.

Child Find

“All children with disabilities residing in the State, including children with disabilities who are homeless children or are wards of the State and children with disabilities attending private schools, regardless of the severity of their disabilities, and who are in need of special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated and a practical method is developed and implemented to determine which children with disabilities are currently receiving needed special education and related services.”
20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(3)(A)

For more information, click here.

Highly Qualified Teacher (in a Public School)

  • Has full State certification as a special education teacher or passed the State special education teacher licensing examination
  • Holds a license to teach in the State as a special education teacher
  • Has not had special education certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis
  • Holds at least a bachelor’s degree

20 U.S.C. § 1401(10)(B)

Individualized Education Program/Plan (“IEP”)

Every child protected by the IDEA is given an IEP that includes…

  1. Present levels of educational performance
  2. Annual goals, including short-term instructional objectives
  3. Specific educational services to be provided, and the extent to which the child will participate in regular educational programs
  4. A projected date for initiation of service, and its anticipated duration
  5. Appropriate objective criteria and evaluation procedures and schedules for determining, on at least an annual basis, whether instructional objectives are being achieved.

20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(A)

An IEP must be reviewed and, if necessary, revised at least once a year.

Furthermore, every IEP:

1) Is individualized.

  • District must adapt to each child’s needs. The IEP must not be catered to fit into a previously established district program, or to conform to a certain available placement or program.

2) Accurately explains the nature of a child’s disability.

  • Clearly explains how the disability affects academic and functional performance, and states the instructional strategies and modifications that will be used to help the child.

3) Reflects the program and services provided.

  • Procedural violations of anything contained in the IEP could give rise to the denial of FAPE.

4) Provides an educational benefit.

  • Must be evidence that the child is making steady or consistent progress.
  • This progress must be measurable and must be tied to specific goals and objectives.

5) Is written for educators and non-educators alike.

  • Is written clearly and in terms understood by all parties involved.

20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)

14 IDEA Classifications

  •  Autism
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Mental Retardation
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Preschool Disabled
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Speech/Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment