The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted by Congress in 1975 as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. This legislation is the foundation for the imposition upon Boards of Education of legal obligations regarding special education. IDEA requires that “all children with disabilities have available a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living…” IDEA defines FAPE as:

The term “free appropriate public education” means special education and related services that

  1. have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, 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.

IDEA Requirements

IDEA provides that your public school district, referred to in IDEA as the local education agency or LEA, be responsible for ensuring that each child with a disability within their district receives special education and related services designed to meet their unique individual needs. In view of the varying needs of each child impaired by a disability, no specific standard is established to determine if the school district is providing an “appropriate” education.

The U.S. Supreme Court addressed the definition of FAPE in Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, where it held that a school district did not have to provide a full-time sign language interpreter as a necessary part of an appropriate public education program. The school district’s only obligation was to meet the requirements of the IDEA and provide individual instruction intended to confer a “reasonable educational benefit, not maximum educational opportunities” to children with disabilities.

The word “free” means that the cost of providing special education and related services is the responsibility of the public school district in which the child resides and cannot be passed along to a child’s parent. FAPE is an unqualified right and a school district will not be excused because of expense from providing specific special education needs to a particular child.

While your child’s disability may not be covered under the IDEA, it may be covered under Section 504 of another federal law, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 is a civil rights statute that protects the rights of persons with disabilities participating in programs and activities, such as public schools, that receive federal financial assistance. You should consult one of our attorneys at Maya Murphy P.C. to determine whether, or to what extent, your child falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or the Rehabilitation Act.

Our education law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with expulsion, discrimination, and general education law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best education law attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut or New York education issues today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an education law attorney about a pressing matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free consultations to all new clients. If you have questions regarding NCLB or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at