Background and History of IDEA

Article
Nov. 11, 2020Updated Jul. 12, 2022
Understand the basics about the laws surrounding IEPs and your child's right to a free, appropriate public education.

What Is IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) begins:

Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.

Originally enacted in 1975 under a different name, IDEA is a federal law that entitles every child with a disability to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). The law requires school districts to identify and assess children who are suspected of having a disability (also called “child find”), including children who live in the district but do not attend public schools. If the child meets the criteria for one or more of IDEA’s 13 qualifying disabilities, they are entitled to special education services. The law provides some federal funding to state and local education agencies to guarantee these services for eligible students.

What is FAPE?

In this clip, Dr. Sarah Pelangka explains how FAPE helps protect the rights of students with disabilities:

History of IDEA

Federal vs. State Statutes

Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (now the Americans with Disabilities Act) is a civil rights statute that requires that schools (public or private) that receive federal financial assistance for educational purposes do not discriminate against children with disabilities, and that schools must provide these students with accommodations comparable to those provided to their typical peers. A student who does not qualify for an IEP may still be entitled to accommodations or services under Section 504.

Accommodations and services provided under Section 504 are typically documented in a 504 plan, along with outlining who is responsible for their implementation. A 504 plan can be used to remove barriers and change the learning environment so that students with disabilities can learn in a way that is similar to their typical peers. Unlike an IEP, there is no standard form for a 504 plan (it does not even need to be a written document).

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Contents


Overview

What Is IDEA?

What is FAPE?

History of IDEA

Federal vs. State Statutes

Section 504

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