What is the Individuals with Disabilities Act?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) is a federal act that imposes legal obligations upon public school districts to provide a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities. Connecticut law requires schools to reach out and identify children who may be eligible for special education services. In other words, public schools cannot turn a blind eye to a child in need of services; they must take a proactive approach in determining who needs assistance.

What is an IEP?

After a child has been identified as one that may need special education, the school is obligated to conduct an initial evaluation. If it is determined that the child in fact needs special services, a Planning and Placement Team (“PPT”) will work to construct an individually tailored special education program for the child, otherwise known as “IEP.”

Generally, the school district must obtain informed consent from the parents in order to move forward with this process. Informed consent generally means that the parent must be given full and complete disclosure of all relevant facts and information pertaining to the school’s plan prior to consent.

If parents disagree about a child’s IEP or the initial decision to evaluate the child for special education services, they can file a due process claim with the State Department of Education. Likewise, if parents withhold informed consent for a plan, the school district can also file a due process claim to determine how to move forward.

Both the parents and the school district have the right to be represented by an attorney at the due process hearing. Both parties will have the ability to present oral argument and evidence as well as cross examine witnesses. As a result, it’s critical that parents have an attorney with thorough knowledge of education law to ensure that a school adequately fulfills all of its obligations under IDEA.

If you have questions about special education law, please contact Joseph Maya and the other experienced education law attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@Mayalaw.com.