Your child has disabilities or special education needs. You need to understand the laws that protect your child’s rights to an education. The United States education laws require schools to educate every child in a manner that allows the child to learn to the best of their ability.
The law is on your side but special education is expensive. School districts may oppose testing a child suspected of needing special education services. They may also attempt to take shortcuts that result in your child not receiving the best education possible.
Here are 6 special education laws that will help you determine if your child’s rights are being violated.
Special Education Laws You Need to Know
There are many laws that guarantee your child the right to a complete and free education. Schools are required to provide education in a way that meets a child’s special needs. Some laws include accommodations required at colleges and universities.
1. Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 replaced the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1965. The new act prohibited schools from discriminating against students based on a disability. This law applies not only to elementary, middle, and high schools, it includes colleges and universities.
The law does not require post-secondary education to be free. Colleges and universities are required to make adjustments to academic requirements. They must also provide handicap-accessible student housing.
2. Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975
This was the first special education law that applied to all students with either mental or physical disabilities. It requires schools to provide children with disabilities a complete education.
That education must be equivalent to what children without disabilities receive. This law requires public schools receiving federal funds to provide special education students with one free meal per day.
3. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990
This law prohibits people with disabilities being discriminated against. This protection covers several areas including employment, transportation, communication, and public accommodations. The U.S. Department of Education enforces Title II of the ADA.
ADA Title II prohibits discrimination when federal financial assistance is provided. Information about laws protecting special needs students can be found at The U.S. Department of Education website.
4. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990 and 2004
IDEA was enacted in 1990 and reauthorized in 2004. It is a modification of the Education for All Handicapped Act.
This act requires schools to provide special needs students with appropriate and free education. That education is to be taught in the least restrictive environment possible. The law states that special needs children be allowed to participate in standard classroom instruction whenever possible.
The law also requires students who qualify for special education to be taught under the direction of an Individuated Education Plan (IEP). The IEP specifies what accommodations need to be made so that the child receives an education.
The IEP must be in writing. It includes information regarding the child’s current academic status. It must also include goals and objectives for the child to work toward, and the accommodations needed for the child to meet those goals.
The IEP team includes teachers, social workers, special education teachers, school administrators, and parents. Parents should plan to participate in the IEP meeting to make sure accommodations are being made that will allow the child to learn.
Parent Inclusion in Educational Planning
All states who receive federal funding are governed by IDEA. The act guarantees educational accommodations to special needs children between the ages of 3-21. The law also requires a child’s parents to be included in the child’s education plan and established the following rights:
- Parents are to be equal members of the IEP team
- Parents have the right to review all their child’s educational records
- Parent’s are to be informed of procedural safeguards in writing
- Parents are entitled to have complaints heard with the state education agency
- Parents may request mediation or a due process hearing
- Parents may suggest an alternative IEP
- Parents may call witnesses who support their position
- Parents may appeal an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR)
If your school is not meeting the special education needs of your child, you may need the assistance of a special needs attorney. They can contact the school to advise them of their legal obligation and take legal action if the school continues to be uncooperative.
5. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is commonly known as the No Child Left Behind Act. This law makes schools accountable for the academic performance of all students, including special education students.
The act requires regular assessment of academic progress for all students. It also provides incentives for each school to demonstrate that special needs students are making academic progress.
6. Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act
This special section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides assistance to students who do not meet special needs requirements. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities.
This section requires accommodations to a child’s curriculum so they can be successful in school. Schools are not required to prepare an IEP, but they do need to comply with section requirements.
To receive Section 504 assistance a student must have a mental or physical disability. The disability must limit at least one of the child’s major life activities. It must also be documented in medical records.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may qualify a student for Section 504. Other impairments include bipolar disease, dyslexia, dwarfism, epilepsy, or physical disability.
Schools are required to make accommodations for students under Section 504, which may include:
- Providing large print textbooks to visually impaired students
- Allowing extra time for students with learning disabilities to take tests
- Placing students in areas with fewer distractions
- Allowing wheelchair-bound students to leave class early for additional passing time
- Allowing students to use hyperactivity manipulation objects during class
- Preparing the child in advance for changes in their normal routine
Teachers must provide these accommodations without drawing undue attention to the student. This protects the child’s dignity and prevents embarrassment.
A request for 504 accommodations must be made in writing. You need to provide a detailed description of your child’s disability. You must also suggest accommodations that would allow your child to achieve academic goals.
A meeting should be scheduled with the 504 coordinators, you, and your child’s teachers within 30 days. The purpose of the meeting is to work out an accommodation plan.
Seek Help When Needed
As the parent of a special needs child, you are your child’s best advocate. If you believe the rights of you or your child are being violated do not hesitate to seek assistance. Special education laws make sure the rights of all students and parents are protected.
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