Monday, January 9, 2012

What Is The IDEA? An Overview.

For my first blog post, I'm going to quickly cover a few IDEA basics.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (20 U.S.C.S. § 1400 et seq.) is the federal statute that requires states receiving federal education funds to provide each child with a disability between the ages of 3 and 21 with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) designed to meet the child’s unique needs. The IDEA defines a FAPE as special education and related services that are provided at public expense and meet federal and state standards, and requires that each child be educated in the least restrictive environment and that, to the maximum extent appropriate.

The IDEA requires that public schools and area education agencies (AEAs) to provide the special education and related services according to the plan set out in an individualized education program (IEP), that has been developed by an IEP Team. Iowa’s schools and AEAs must ensure that IEP team meetings are attended by: the child’s parent(s) or guardian(s); at least one of the child’s general education teachers if the child is, or may be, participating in the general education environment; at least one of the child’s special education teachers; a representative who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities and who is knowledgeable about the Iowa Core Curriculum and the availability of resources of the public agency; an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results; at the discretion of the parent, AEA, or school, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate; and when appropriate the child with a disability. The school and AEA must document attempts to set a mutually agreed upon time and place for an IEP meeting with parents, and if a parent can’t attend in person, he or she may participate through the Iowa Communication Network, video conferencing, web cam, or conference call.

In writing the IEP, the IEP Team must consider the child’s strengths, the parent’s concerns, and the results of the child's most recent evaluation. The IEP must include, among other things, a statement of the child’s present levels of performance; a statement of measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives; and a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child.

In addition to preparing an IEP, the IDEA requires schools and area education agencies to comply with various procedural safeguards that are designed to ensure, among other things, that the child's parents or guardians have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the process. Those safeguards include requirements that the parents be afforded an opportunity to inspect relevant records; obtain an independent educational evaluation; and to present complaints regarding their child's education and placement.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not intended as legal advice. If you need legal advice in regard to special education matters, you are encourage to contact an attorney who practices in this area.

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