The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) exists to ensure that students with disabilities receive the best education possible to meet their needs. As such, the law includes some specific rights for both children and their families. Here are the major rights students have under this law:
Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
Students have the right to receive a free and appropriate public education. This means that regardless of a student’s disability, they must have access to a school setting that meets their needs. It also must be free to the family. When evaluations, observations, and data have determined that the settings available to a student do not meet their needs, this is when a student may qualify for free admission into a special education school, or a private school that specializes in that student’s particular needs. This is a complicated process, but it can be done.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
The LRE ensures that students are placed in a setting as close to the general education setting as possible. This could mean anything from placement in a general education classroom with formal supports, to a self-contained classroom. Educational settings and programs that are available exist on a continuum.
Many people hold the misconception that the more supports a student gets, the better off they’ll be. While this logic sounds reasonable, studies have shown that students thrive most in the setting that provides them with only what they absolutely need, and nothing more. If a student is capable of meeting the demands of a general education setting, then that’s where they belong.
Every student with a disability has the right to an appropriate evaluation, which your child’s school is responsible for arranging. It must be administered by a qualified professional (e.g. psychologist, etc.) and is not conducted by the teacher. Evaluations must be thorough and unbiased. They must also not include unnecessary testing beyond what the IEP team recommends.
Individualized Education Plan
If the results of the evaluation point to a disability, students have the right to obtain an Individualized Education Plan. This document states exactly what supports and services the student will receive in and outside the classroom during the school day. These can include anything from related services like speech or occupational therapy, to extended time on a test or preferential seating. And you, the parent, are of course involved in this meeting. Your most important right as a parent with a child with disabilities is your involvement in your child’s education, so make sure to stay informed and speak up. You are your child’s best advocate!