Special Education Laws

Special education refers to the education of children with physical disorders or disabilities, psychiatric disorders, emotional distress, behavioral disorders, and learning disorders. Traditional educational techniques or school programs do not sufficiently meet the requirements of these children. Children with special education needs are guaranteed rights to services in schools under federal and state laws. These laws include Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA 1997), and No Child Left Behind (NCLB). These laws guarantee special education programs and financial assistance for disabled children and youth in the United States.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997 is a federal law that governs all special education services for children in the United States. The major objective of IDEA is to provide free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. The IDEA 2004 is a revision or reauthorization of IDEA 1997, which preserves the civil rights guarantees of IDEA 1997, but makes substantial changes regarding how schools determine whether a child has learning disability and needs special education services. Services to very young children, i.e., infants and toddlers, are also covered under the IDEA. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights legislative act, which proscribes discrimination against children with disabilities and provides them with reasonable accommodations. Under section 504, any person who has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity is considered disabled.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) commands all educational institutions to meet the needs of children with psychiatric problems. In the United States, procedures for the implementation of the Federal laws and procedural safeguards are different in different states and therefore parents should have a good knowledge of the rules and regulations in their particular area. For any assistance, parents can always contact the regional office of the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

Special Education Law – Overview

Many of us, who went to school not that long ago, remember that being a special needs student meant riding to school in a separate bus and attending one class with other children of varying disabilities. These classes resembled more of a day care than school, and even the most advanced students had little hope of receiving a high school diploma, let alone attend college. Since that time, the term disability, and special needs student, has expanded to encompass much more than a person with an IQ below a certain arbitrary standard. What I have attempted to do in my first article is to give a little history of the evolution of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

In 1954 the United States Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) which found that segregated schools were a violation of equal protection rights. It would be another twenty years before this concept was applied to children with handicaps, especially learning disabilities, trying to receive an education. In fact, shortly after Brown was decided the Illinois Supreme Court found that compulsory education did not apply to mentally impaired students, and as late as 1969, it was a crime to try to enroll a handicapped child in a public school if that child had ever been excluded.

Due to court challenges in Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia in the early 1970’s things started to change. In 1975 Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. This was the first law that mandated that all handicapped students had a right to an education. Not only did it mandate that all handicapped students had a right to an education, it also mandated that local educational agencies could be held accountable for not doing so. Shortly thereafter, the term handicapped was replaced with “child with a disability”. Although revised in 1990 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the most comprehensive changes came in 1997. This law required schools to identify children with disabilities to make sure that all children have available a “free appropriate public education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living” 20 U.S.C. ยง 1401 (d). Unfortunately, the most recent changes in 2004 made the law slightly more difficult to receive the benefits they deserve, which, depending upon the next administration and the make up of Congress may or may not be a trend that will be followed in the future.

Exactly what is a “free appropriate public education”? Under the law, it is defined as “special education and related services that (A) have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge: (B) meet the standards of the State educational agency; (C) include an appropriate preschool, elementary or secondary school education in the State involved; and (D) are provided in conformity with the individualized education program required under [the law].” In other words, the school must provide services that meet the needs of a child with a disability that may affect their ability to learn. These “related services” can be services that are provided in the classroom, such as giving the child extra time to finish taking tests. They can also encompass services that can be provided outside of the classroom, such as tutoring, or having the child attend either a day or residential program outside of the school, along with transportation.

For the historical data, I relied on Wrightslaw: Special Education Law by Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright and Special Education Law in Massachusetts by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education.

4 Parenting Tips to Help You Enforce Special Education Law

Do you have a child with a disability who is receiving special education services?

Are you frustrated because it is hard to get needed educational services, for your child? Would you like a few parenting tips, to help you make sure that special education personnel follow IDEA? This article will discuss 4 parenting tips, that will help you in enforcing, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

IDEA enforcement by law is to be the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which is part of the Department of Education. They are responsible in making sure that states, are in compliance with special education law. States are responsible for making sure that individual school districts comply with IDEA.

The reality is that parents are the main enforcement mechanism of special education law. Below are 4 tips to help you ensure that your school district is complying with IDEA, for the benefit of your child.

1. Develop a working knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. By doing this, you will know where to look when you need a particular section of the law. For Example: If you would like to look at what is required for a free appropriate public education (FAPE), you would look under 300.101. Or Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) at 300.115.

2. Develop a working knowledge of your state regulations on special education (This is how the state is going to comply with IDEA). Some states regulations are actually better for children and parents, than federal law. By understanding these, you will be able to use them to ensure that your school district is complying with the educational law. You can get a copy of your state regulations from your state board of education.

3. Bring copies of the laws with you to any IEP meeting for your child, and place them on the table. You will be able to look up certain sections during the meeting, in case you need them.

By bringing up the special education laws that apply, you will make sure that you school district is following them. You also want to make sure, that the special education personnel in your district understand that you know the laws, and that you will be making sure that they follow them.

Also, when you write letters to school personnel, always quote IDEA or the state regulations, for special education when you can. This will help bolster your case, for whatever you are asking for.

For example: IDEA states, that my child has the right to a free appropriate public education, which I believe that she is not receiving at this time. In order for my child with a learning disability to receive FAPE, she must receive the appropriate amount of reading remediation, using simultaneous-multi sensory reading program such as Orton-Gillingham.

4. If your school district is in non compliance with the procedures of IDEA, consider filing a state complaint. The state complaint is filed with your state board of education; special education department.

The complaint should state the violation, the number in IDEA that is being violated, what your evidence is of the violation, and also the proposed resolution of the violation. Also, you can put more than one violation in a complaint, but number them for easier reading and tracking.

By doing these four things, you will be able to understand when special education personnel are not following special education law. It is sad that parents are the main enforcement arm of IDEA, but it is reality! Good luck, and stay focused, for the benefit of your child!

4 Reasons Why Inconsistent State Special Education Laws May Be Harming Your Child’s Education!

4 Reasons why inconsistent State Special Education Laws may be Harming Your Child’s Education! By JoAnn Collins Key words: Autism, PDD, Asperger’s, IDEA 2004, specific learning disability, SLD, IEE’s at public expense, FAPE
Are you the parent of a child with Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or Asperger’s that is having a dispute with your school district? Are you concerned about your States special education laws, and whether they are in compliance with IDEA 2004 (federal special education law)? Many states seem to have special education laws that are inconsistent with federal special education laws. This article will discuss why these inconsistent State laws may be harming your child’s education.

1. Some school districts are using State laws to deny children eligibility for special education. For example: In Maine the State laws require that children suspected of having a specific learning disability (SLD) must score 1.5 standard deviations below the mean in two or more areas of psychological processing, but cannot be more than 1.5 standard deviations below the mean (mean is average). In OSEP policy letter to Hugo OSEP states that this is inconsistent with federal special education law because it may result in children with SLD not being properly identified. A child not receiving needed special education and related services could negatively affect the child’s education and future adult life!

2. Some school districts are using State laws to deny children needed ESY services. For example: In New York their State laws say that in order for a child to be provided ESY services they must have substantial regression (with a long recoupment period). They also state that a child needs to be in self-contained placements, have severe multiple disabilities, or be in home and hospital placement. This is inconsistent with IDEA 2004 which states that ESY services must be determined on an individual basis, and given if a child needs the services so that they can receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

3. Some school districts are preventing parents from “obtaining” IEE’s at public expense by using State laws requiring “pre-notification” or “requesting” of the IEE. IDEA 2004 (federal special education law) states that parents have the right to “obtain” an IEE at public expense when they disagree with a school evaluation. Some States laws are taking out the word “obtain” and putting in the words “request” or “pre-notify.” For Example: In my State of Illinois the regulations state that parents “must request” an IEE at public expense rather than parents “have the right to obtain” the evaluation. This may prevent you from determining what your child’s disabilities are and what services your child needs for FAPE

4. Some school districts are using State laws to deny parents “meaningful participation” in all aspects of their child’s education. For example: In Maine their State law requires parents to submit written statements of concern at least three days before a scheduled IEP meeting. In OSEP policy letter to Breton OSEP states, “However, the IDEA does not permit a public agency to establish criteria for parental participation in an IEP meeting. Therefore, we maintain that it would be inconsistent with… IDEA for a local educational agency to adopt a blanket policy requiring parents to provide a written copy of their concerns to the IEP team three days before the meeting in order to have their concerns addressed in that meeting.”

Use this information in your advocacy to ensure that your school; district is in compliance not only with State law, but also with Federal law.

6 Parenting Tips on Special Education Law and Transportation

Are you the parent of a child with autism or a physical disability that needs transportation? Do you wonder what the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states is the schools responsibility, to provide transportation for your child? This article will discuss what IDEA requires as far as transportation for your child with a disability. Also discussed are parenting tips that you can use, to help your child receive this important service.

Under IDEA transportation is considered a related service. A related service is transportation, developmental, corrective, and other services. . .as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. . .
What this means is that if your child requires transportation in order to benefit from their education, special education personnel are required to provide it.

Parenting Tips:

1. When advocating for your child, remember that; transportation not only means to and from school, but also in and around the school building, and any specialized equipment required by your child.

2. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prevents discrimination on the basis of disability. The law reads: No qualified student shall on the basis of handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any . . .transportation. . .or activity.

For Example: Your child with a physical disability is not allowed to go on a field trip, because the class cannot get the wheelchair bus. This would be a section 504 complaint, because your child is being discriminated against, on the basis of their disability. I have dealt with this situation, and the school district usually quickly fixes the transportation problem, if you tell them that you may file a Section 504 complaint. Section 504 is covered by the Office of Civil Rights in Washington, though each state has at least one office.

3. If your child requires an assistant in the classroom then you may be able to get a bus assistant, if your child’s disability requires it. The goal of transportation as a related service is to provide safe access to education. So if your child needs a bus assistant in order to get safely to school, school personnel are required to provide it.

4. If your school district is not providing needed transportation for your child, you can be reimbursed, for providing the transportation yourself. Make sure that your child’s IEP, states that they need transportation as a related service, and that you will be reimbursed.

A district may also be required to reimburse parents where:

A. Transportation is needed to provide FAPE and the district fails to meet its obligation.
B. The district doesn’t recognize the need for transportation.
C. The district makes inadequate provisions for transportation.

5. If your child’s extracurricular activity is related to their IEP goals and objectives, then transportation must be given. For Example: If your child has autism and needs to work on social skills, they can gain that from extra curricular activities. In that case transportation needs to be given by your school district.

6. School districts are not allowed to shorten your child’s school day due to transportation. Unfortunately it happens all the time, and you may have to stand up to special education personnel for the good of your child.

IDEA gives children with disabilities equal educational opportunity, which means a full school day. I have often said that if parents of children without disabilities found out there child was to leave school early for transportation, they would be outraged. But parents of special needs children are supposed to accept it. Do not accept it, stand up for your child.

This article has given you a lot of good information about transportation, that you can use to benefit your child’s education.