IDEA: What It Means for You and Your Children

IDEA lawyer

Representing Children in New York and Nationwide

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law that governs the public education requirements for special education. Revised in 2004, IDEA stipulates the bare minimum in services that a school district must provide for children with disabilities. Some states provide for additional requirements for school districts. The goal of IDEA is that every child with disabilities receives a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

If you believe your school is not fulfilling its obligations under IDEA, please schedule a free consultation with Goldstein, Ackerhalt & Pletcher today to talk about your legal options.

Identifying Children with Disabilities

Under IDEA, school districts are required to identify children with educational disabilities.

First, schools are required to identify and evaluate children with disabilities as soon as possible and provide them the educational support they need to achieve. This responsibility is called “child-find.” This means that every district has an affirmative obligation to locate and identify every child with a disability in the District. Whenever a district has a reason to suspect a child has a disability, the District should refer the child to the IEP Team and request the parents to consent to a comprehensive evaluation. That evaluation should ascertain the child’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs and assist the IEP Team (of which the parent is a member) to determine whether the child has an educational disability.

Categories of disability identified by IDEA are:

Second, once a child with a disability has been identified, the next step is to design an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The IEP is the heart of IDEA. It sets forth what placement and services are to be provided in order to ensure your child is provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). What services, how often, and where they are to be provided are included on the IEP. Also required are specific goals, with measurable criteria, to enable the parents and the District to periodically assess your child’s educational progress.

Learn more about your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The school district is responsible to comply with the law and to ensure that your child receives a FAPE. Anything less than what is appropriate would violate federal law.

If you disagree with a determination by an IEP Team regarding the identification, evaluation, educational placement or the provision of a FAPE for your child, you have several options. You can meet informally with the school, can request another meeting of the IEP Team to further address any concerns or you can request mediation. You can also request an impartial hearing conducted by an impartial hearing office (IHO) to challenge the IEP Team’s position.

If a parent ultimately “prevails” at an impartial hearing or in court, the IDEA permits the parent to seek reimbursement of attorneys’ fees (and some costs) from the school district.

To learn more about IDEA and how it affects your child, please contact the attorneys at Goldstein, Ackerhalt & Pletcher, LLP. Please call or email us today for a free initial consultation so we may hear the specifics of your child’s situation and explain how IDEA may apply to him or her.