Empowering parents and students with disabilities

Special Ed Law

There are 2 main laws that come into play when dealing with education and students with disabilities. IDEA, which is a federal education law, and Section 504 of the Americans with Disability Act, which is a civil rights law.

  • IDEA – 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.

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:

    • Autism
    • Blindness
    • Deafness
    • Emotional Disturbance
    • Hearing Impairment
    • Intellectual Disability
    • Multiple Disabilities
    • Orthopedic Impairment
    • Other Health Impaired
    • Specific Learning Disability
    • Speech or Language Impairment
    • Traumatic Brain Injury
    • Visual Impairment

For your 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.

Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees that a child with a disability has equal access to a comparable education as those who do not have a disability. Where IDEA is an education law, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a Civil law.

Section 504 general helps in cases where children require building accessibility, classroom accommodations and curriculum modifications.

Examples of things that might fall under Section 504 instead of IDEA include (but are not limited to):

  • A child with a normal ability to learn academically, but who has a mobility impairment.
  • A child with a normal ability to learn academically but who has a medical condition such as epilepsy, diabetes, AIDS, allergies, asthma, ADHD, cancer, and cerebral palsy.
  • A child who has behavioral problems or is under a doctor’s care for a psychological condition such as anxiety or depression.