The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a U.S. federal law that addresses how states and public agencies provide special education and related services to children with disabilities. Its purpose is to ensure that children with disabilities receive an education that meets their needs and prepares them for future employment and independent living.
Rights under IDEA
Schools must identify and evaluate children who may qualify under IDEA for special education and related services. If the child qualifies, the school must develop an individualized education program for each child. It should evaluate the child’s current performance, goals and the appropriate services.
Schools also must educate children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment, which means that they should be in classes with peers who are not disabled, to the extent it is possible to do so. Families also have a right to participate in meetings and review the child’s school records.
If a dispute arises under IDEA, parents have dispute resolution options. They may consider mediation, which is a process in which a neutral third party, called a mediator, helps the parties come to a mutual agreement.
Parents also have a right to file a due process complaint, which is a formal complaint that alleges a violation of IDEA. A hearing will be held within 45 days by an impartial hearing officer. Parents will have an opportunity to present evidence.
Parents also may file a complaint with the state’s educational agency, which will conduct an investigation. These are only some of the dispute resolution examples that may be available.