Special Education Laws

Special education laws are federally mandated rules that ensure that students with special learning needs receive the proper services to assist them in school. Unfortunately, special education laws are continually being challenged, and amended at the federal level.

It is important to realize that these laws give children with disabilities and their parents important rights. Specifically, the federal Individuals with

Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives families of special education children the right to:

● have their child assessed or tested to determine special education eligibility and needs

● inspect and review school records relating to their child

● attend an annual “individualized education program” (IEP) meeting and develop a written IEP plan with representatives of the local school district, and

● resolve disputes with the school district through an impartial administrative and legal process.

Eligibility Under IDEA

Every school district is legally required to identify, locate, and evaluate children with disabilities (20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(3)). After the evaluation, the district may provide the child with specific programs and services to address special needs.

IDEA defines “children with disabilities” as individuals between the ages of three and 22 with one or more of the following conditions:

• developmental delay

• intellectual disability

• deaf-blindness (including deafness or hearing impairment)

• speech or language impairment

• visual impairment (including blindness)

• emotional disturbance

• orthopedic impairment

• autism

• traumatic brain injury

• specific learning disability, or

• other health impairment

(20 U.S.C. §1401(3); 34 C.F.R. §300.8).

For a child to qualify for special education under IDEA, it is not enough to have one of these disabilities. There must also be evidence that the disability adversely affects your child’s educational performance.

In both 2005 and 2006 important changes were made to IDEA. With changes being made to Special Education Laws, if you have a student in special education, it is important to stay abreast of the changes and how they may affect your child.

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