IDEA - The Individuals with Disabilities Education act of 2004 sets out to ensure that special needs children receive a free and appropriate public education alongside their nondisabled peers. IDEA contains six core principles:

1. Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
2. Appropriate Evaluation
3. Individualized Education Program (IEP)
4. Least Restrictive Environment
5. Parent and Student participation in the decision making process.
6. Procedural Safeguards ( due process)

Please know that the definition of these terms is included under Glossary of Terms in the Resource section.

The Procedural Safeguards listed in #6 above are essentially an outline of parents rights with respect to the special education process.  These safeguards give parents the right to:

  • An Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)
  • Prior written notice
  • Parental consent
  • Access to educational records
  • A dispute system to resolve complaints
  • The child's right to participate during the due process proceedings.


NCLB - No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 - this act renewed and strengthened the elementary and secondary education act of 1965 or ESEA.  NCLB was created to provide more accountability in reaching acceptable academic standards. The no child left behind act is supposed to offer more choices for parents and special needs students, while allowing greater flexibility to the local school districts and schools. Some of the guiding principles behind NCLB are:

  • Accountability for student performance.
  • The requirement that special education teachers be "highly qualified".
  • The goal of reducing bureaucracy and increasing flexibility.
  • The goal of empowering parents to be integral parts of the special education process, and to hold schools accountable for Adequate Yearly Progress.

Please note that NCLB is meant to strengthen and improve IDEA, the objective is for these statutes to work in conjunction with one another.

"FAPE in the LRE"

Some experts in special education us the "FAPE in the LRE" phrase repeatedly, saying this phrase is an excellent synopsis of special education law.  "A Free and Approriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment".

More detail on FAPE:

The law states that schools must provide each eligible special education student an education that:

  • Designed to meet the unique needs of the child
  • Addresses both academic and functional needs including behavior and social skills.
  • Accesses the General Curriculum
  • Affords specialized special education services as detailed in the IEP.
  • Is free.  Free means free.

More detail on LRE:

Federal statutes state that to the greatest extent possible, the child should stay in the same classrom he or she would normally be in if they didn't have a disability. Children should be placed in the best learning environment enabling them to make effective progress by using supplementary aids and services as determined by the IEP.


What rights do parents have regarding the implementation of these laws?

The special education phrase regarding the implementation of special education laws is known as "Procedural Safeguards".  These safeguards are protections for parents to make sure special education services are being properly provided.  Procedural safeguards include:

  • The right to receive an Independent Educational Evaluation.
  • The right to Prior Written Notice before any special education services are implemented.
  • Parental Consent for all special education services, with the right to reject any plan.
  • Full access to all educational records.
  • Parental opportunity to present and resolve complaints.
  • The right of the child to "stay put" while the parents negotiate with the school.


WARNING! It's vital that you understand the laws in your own state. Federal Law is the foundation, States cannot offer fewer services than required by Federal statutes.  However, States can offer more special education services than required by Federal Law and many States do. Tennessee has justed passed legislation regarding Restraint and Isolation with respects to behavior problems in school.  Massachusetts has just added bullying statutes to their special education laws. Alabama has just added Adaptive Physical Education as a requirement for all special education students.  Each State has their own nuances, and you will need to educate yourself on the particulars of your area.


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