IDEA Requirements

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(A) 2012), requires states receiving federal education funds to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to all children with disabilities.1 This is the standard used in determining whether a child with disabilities is receiving appropriate educational services.  North Carolina receives federal education funds and thus is subject to these laws. 

 “The IDEA emphasized the special education and related services required to meet the unique needs of such children.Under the IDEA, a FAPE must provide such children with meaning full access to the educational process. “. . . a FAPE must be reasonably calculated to confer some educational benefit on a disabled child. Such an educational benefit must be provided to a disabled child in the least restrictive and appropriate environment, with the child participating, to the extent possible, in the same activities as non-disabled children. 2   A “free appropriate public education” by definition includes “special education and related services.”A “free appropriate public education” consists of:  “special education and related services that (A) have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge, (B) meet the standards of the State educational agency, (C) include an appropriate preschool, elementary, or secondary school education in the State involved, and (D) are provided in conformity with the individualized education program….”  20 U.S.C. Sec. 1401(a)(18) (1988).4

A FAPE “consists of educational instruction specially designed to meet the unique needs of the handicapped child, . . . supported by such services as are necessary to permit the child to benefit from the instruction.”5

“The IDEA does not, however, require a school district to provide a disabled child with the best possible education. And once a FAPE is offered, the school district need not offer additional educational services. That is, while a state “must provide specialized instruction and related services `sufficient to confer some educational benefit upon the handicapped child,’ … the Act does not require the `furnishing of every special service necessary to maximize each handicapped child’s potential.'””2 (citations omitted).

 This is the battle that takes place between the parents of a special needs child and a school.  The parents obviously want the best education for their child.  This is not the standard set by the law.  However, the school may not be providing any services or not the appropriate services as required by the law. 

Parent/Guardian Right to Participate

A parent or guardian is entitled to their input and say in the creation of the Individual Education Plan (IEP).  They are part of the IEP team.  I have represented children and their parents where the school has tried to make the decision on their own or told the parent they do not have a right to a say in the plan.  This is wrong according to the law.  “The IDEA requires that the parents or guardian of a disabled child be notified by the school district of any proposed change to their child’s IEP. It also requires that the parents or guardian be permitted to participate in discussions relating to their disabled child’s evaluation and education.” 2

  “A school district is required by the IDEA to provide an IEP for each disabled child. An appropriate IEP must contain statements concerning a disabled child’s level of functioning, set forth measurable annual achievement goals, describe the services to be provided, and establish objective criteria for evaluating the child’s progress. The IDEA establishes a series of elaborate procedural safeguards “designed to ensure that the parents or guardian of a child with a disability are both notified of decisions affecting their child and given an opportunity to object to these decisions.” The IEP must therefore be prepared by an IEP Team, which consists of a representative of the school district, the child’s teacher, the parents or guardian and, where appropriate, the child herself.” 2 (citations omitted).

 I represent children with disabilities and their parent/guardian for their educational needs because I believe all children should be able to get an education and pursue their dreams.  However, many schools view the needs of these children differently.  They may be providing services, but it does not mean those services comport with the requirements of the IDEA.  Please contact me if your child needs help with their educational needs. 



1 E.L. v. Chapel Hill-Carrboro Bd. of Educ. (4th Cir. 2014)

 2 Mm ex rel. Dm v. School District of Greenville County, 303 F.3d 523(Fed. 4th Cir. 2002)

 3 Shook by and through Shook v. Gaston County Bd. of Ed., 882 F.2d 119 (C.A.4 (N.C.), 1989)

 4 Combs by Combs v. School Bd. of Rockingham County, 15 F.3d 357 (C.A.4 (Va.), 1994)

 5 J.P. ex rel. Peterson v. County School Bd. Hanover, 516 F.3d 254 (4th Cir., 2008)