The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides federal funding for the education of children with disabilities and requires, for the receipt of these funds, the provision of a free appropriate education (FAPE). The statue also contains detailed due process provisions to ensure the provision of FAPE. IDEA states, in part, that it has the following purposes:
“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 employment and independent living to ensure the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected; and to assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all students with disabilities….”
Originally enacted in 1975 as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, P.L. 94-142, the act responded to increased awareness of the need to educate children with disabilities and to judicial decisions requiring that states provide an education for children with disabilities if they provide an education for children without disabilities.
IDEA has been amended several times, most recently and most comprehensively by the 1997 IDEA reauthorization, P.L. 105-17, the IDEA Amendments of 1997. This legislation placed many former regulatory requirements into the statue in order to make the requirements of IDEA more accessible and also added substantive changes. Key features of the 1997 reauthorization include:
School districts must get written consent from parents before doing tests or other evaluation activities as part of the reevaluation process, not just before the initial evaluation.
The right of a child with a disability to a free, appropriate education ends upon graduation with a standard diploma (or GED diploma) or upon the child’s 22nd birthday (whichever comes first). This right does not end with any other type of graduation certificate or diploma, until the child reaches the age of 22.
Parents must be given a copy of their child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) without having to ask for it.
The IEP team must consider several special factors: behaviors that impede learning, limited English proficiency, Braille needs, communication needs, and assistive technology needs.
The IEP team includes:
The parent(s) of the child
At least one general education teacher, if the child is or may be participating in general education
At least one special education teacher or provider (required)
LEA representative (required)
An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results (required)
Other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel,
The child, whenever appropriate. The child must receive a separate invitation for all IEPs that will be active during
the year the child turns age 14, and older.
For transition services, representatives of other agencies who are likely to provide these services.
The IEP team must consider, as appropriate, the child’s performance on state or districtwide assessments.
Invitations to IEP meetings must inform parents of their rights to invite individuals who have special expertise or knowledge regarding their child.
Transition planning (to help a young person prepare for life after school) must begin at age 14.
Several changes have been made to the conditions under which children with disabilities may be suspended for disciplinary reasons. Students with disabilities may not be suspended from school for more than ten cumulative days in a school year. If a student commits a serious offense, he may be reassigned to an alternative school facility where he will continue to receive the services and modifications specified in his IEP. In addition, the use of Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP) will be implemented when necessary.
Due process rights transfer from the parent to the student where the child reaches the age of 18, unless the child has been determined to be incompetent by a court of law.
Congress is currently examining IDEA again. As new information is received, this site will be updated.
For more complete information about IDEA, please contact the Bureau of Instructional Support and Community Services, Florida Department of Education by phone at 850-245-0475
850-245-0475 or at www.fldoe.org/ese.