What We Know Now


The Indi­vid­u­als with Dis­abil­i­ties Edu­ca­tion Act (IDEA) is a US federal law that gov­erns how states and pub­lic agen­cies pro­vide special education and related ser­vices to chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties. It addresses the edu­ca­tional needs of chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties from birth to age 21, in cases that involve 14 spec­i­fied cat­e­gories of disability.


In 1954, the estab­lished edu­ca­tional for­mat in the United States of seg­re­gat­ing black and white stu­dents into sep­a­rate schools was deemed uncon­sti­tu­tional by Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion of Topeka, 347 US 483 (1954). This caused a great deal of unrest in the polit­i­cal sphere and marked a gate­way moment in the Civil Rights Move­ment. This move­ment laid the foun­da­tion for the dis­abil­ity anti-​segregation move­ment that soon followed.

Considerations or Implications:

Guar­an­teed by the Indi­vid­u­als with Dis­abil­i­ties Edu­ca­tion Act (IDEA), a Free Appro­pri­ate Pub­lic Edu­ca­tion (FAPE) is defined as an edu­ca­tional pro­gram that is indi­vid­u­al­ized to a spe­cific child, designed to meet that child’s unique needs, and from which the child receives edu­ca­tional ben­e­fit. Some of the cri­te­ria spec­i­fied in var­i­ous sec­tions of the IDEA statute includes require­ments that schools pro­vide each stu­dent with a dis­abil­ity an edu­ca­tion that is designed to meet the unique needs of that one stu­dent, pro­vides “…access to the gen­eral cur­ricu­lum to meet the chal­leng­ing expec­ta­tions estab­lished for all chil­dren” (that is, it meets the approx­i­mate grade-​level stan­dards of the state edu­ca­tional agency), is pro­vided in accor­dance with the Indi­vid­u­al­ized Edu­ca­tion Plan (IEP) as defined in 1414(d)(3), and results in edu­ca­tional ben­e­fit to the child. The IEP is the cor­ner­stone of a student’s edu­ca­tional pro­gram. It spec­i­fies the ser­vices to be pro­vided and how often, describes the student’s present lev­els of per­for­mance and how the student’s dis­abil­i­ties affect aca­d­e­mic per­for­mance, and spec­i­fies accom­mo­da­tions and mod­i­fi­ca­tions to be pro­vided for the stu­dent. How­ever, hav­ing a dis­abil­ity does not auto­mat­i­cally qual­ify a stu­dent for spe­cial edu­ca­tion ser­vices under the IDEA. The dis­abil­ity must result in the stu­dent need­ing addi­tional or dif­fer­ent ser­vices to par­tic­i­pate in school. Stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties who do not qual­ify for spe­cial edu­ca­tion ser­vices under the IDEA may qual­ify for accom­mo­da­tions or mod­i­fi­ca­tions under Sec­tion 504 and under the Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act (ADA). For those that do qual­ify, it is the aspi­ra­tion for each stu­dent to make suf­fi­cient progress on their goals to no longer need ser­vices and be dismissed.


Kurt A. Schnei­der, Ph.D., WASCD Board of Directors

June, 2012

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