What are the laws regarding education?

To support their ability to learn in school, three federal laws apply specifically to children with IDD and other special needs.  It is important to note that different states have different criteria for eligibility, services available, and procedures for each of these laws. It is important for parents to be aware of these laws and how they are applied in their state.

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law, passed in 1975, that governs all special education services for children in the United States. It says that all children with IDD have the  right to a “free, appropriate education,” and outlines detailed roles and rights for students, their parents, teachers, and schools.  It also calls for each student who needs one to have an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, that may include a variety of services, supports, and tools to make each student’s education as equal and effective as possible. And it emphasizes the importance of providing all of this in “the most integrated setting appropriate” for each child.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights statute that requires that schools not discriminate against children with disabilities and provide them with reasonable accommodations. It covers all programs or activities, whether public or private, that receive any federal financial assistance.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all schools, other than those operated by religious organizations, meet the needs of children with these differences or disorders. Under the ADA children who qualify cannot be denied educational services, programs or activities and it prohibits discrimination against all such students.

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