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Students With Disabilities: Education Laws

Students with disabilities have certain rights when it comes to their education. The federal government ensures the rights of students and their families through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The act essentially governs how states and agencies may provide early intervention, education services, and related support to children with disabilities. This section provides an overview of education service and support laws.

There are articles on private education and reimbursement, 504 accommodations in schools, and IEP requirements. There is also general information on the process of placing kids with disabilities in school.

An Overview of Education Services and Support Laws

The federal government protects the right to education for students with disabilities and their families through a law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It is found in the U.S. Code in Title 20, Chapter 33. This law determines how states and public agencies provide early intervention, education support, and related services to children with disabilities from birth to age 26.

IDEA guarantees students a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living. FAPE guarantees children with disabilities from three to 21 an educational program individualized to the specific child, designed to meet their unique needs, that provides access to the general curriculum at the grade-level standards established by the state.

Parents have the right to be informed of procedural safeguards, review educational records, and be equal members of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team. They also must have their concerns heard. Parents can suggest alternative IEPs, request hearings, mediation, and due process for their concerns, and be a part of all aspects of their child's education.

Students are eligible for IDEA protection if they are within the applicable ages and are diagnosed with any of the following:

  • Autism
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intellectual disability
  • Multiple disabilities 
  • Speech-language impairment
  • Visual impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Specific learning disability (SLD) (such as dyslexia)
  • Other health impairments (subject to approval)

504 Accommodations in Schools

Not all students are disabled to the extent necessary to qualify for protection under IDEA. These students aren't without recourse though. Many qualify for protection under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973, which bans discrimination against people with disabilities. The term "504 accommodations" generally refers to simple, inexpensive changes a school must make to allow students with disabilities equal access to education.

While these students are not entitled to receive an IEP, as is the case with those who qualify for IDEA protection, there are many actions schools must take that can significantly benefit students with disabilities. Examples of 504 accommodations include:

  • Allowing a wheelchair user to leave class early to get to their next class
  • Providing large-print books to students with visual impairment
  • Allowing extra time on tests for those with learning disabilities
  • Providing students with low-distraction work area
  • Preparing students for upcoming changes in their routine
  • Allowing hyperactive students to keep a small object to manipulate quietly

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

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