Every child in the United States is entitled to a public education. This includes students with disabilities who may require additional accommodations. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law requiring schools to take the necessary steps to empower students with disabilities to learn alongside other students. The law covers 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, and children and mandates that schools meet certain conditions for their students.
The essential tenet behind the IDEA is the guarantee of a free appropriate public education for students who have different learning needs. Schools must provide specialized services to meet these needs, which may vary from student to student, and help to prepare them for their future. These services are provided, like all public education, at taxpayer expense and at no additional cost to the student and their family.
To create this tailored educational approach, key school staff members and the student’s parents collaborate to create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which lays out all of the services the student will receive to help them access educational resources. This includes plans for helping them to access extracurricular and nonacademic activities, if applicable. Parents have the right to be involved in the planning for their child and to have access to all the relevant information about their child’s progress. They and the school must work together effectively for the benefit of the child.
The student’s IEP will include benchmarks for evaluation to ensure they are achieving their academic goals. When drafting the IEP, the team will establish the student’s current academic and functional levels. From there, the student will have personalized annual, measurable goals and regular progress reports to ensure that the IEP is getting the desired results.
Perhaps most importantly, the IDEA requires that students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment possible. Some adaptations may need to be made to accommodate their different learning needs, but as much as possible, they should be educated and participate in activities alongside and in the same manner as non-disabled students. The students should only be separated if their supplemental services cannot be effectively implemented in the same classroom.
When drafting and implementing an IEP, there may be disagreements between the parents and the school as to what is best for the child. Parents and teachers both have the right to challenge care decisions that are made, and the IDEA lays out specific procedural protections to ensure that the student’s rights are not infringed upon while these disputes are resolved. For example, students have the right to stay put in the school while discussions are taking place. If a dispute cannot be resolved through mediation, the IEP team may need to go through a due process hearing; if it escalates further, one of the parties involved may pursue a civil lawsuit.
The education law practice at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser has the knowledge and experience to help schools and educational institutions provide the best possible learning environment for their students while protecting their interests. We have handled all types of IDEA cases and can help institutions successfully implement IEPs, as well as provide comprehensive representation in the event of a dispute. With offices conveniently located in West Chester, we work with schools throughout the Philadelphia area and Chester County. Call us today at 484-318-7106 or contact us online to speak to a Philadelphia education lawyer.