The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the major federal statute for the education of children with disabilities. IDEA both authorizes federal funding for special education and related services and, for states that accept these funds, sets out principles under which special education and related services are to be provided. The requirements are detailed, especially when the regulatory interpretations are considered, and have been the subject of numerous judicial decisions. The key concept in IDEA is the requirement for the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for children with disabilities. In order to implement FAPE, IDEA requires that each child with a disability have an individualized education program. Children with disabilities may also receive related services and must receive their education in the least restrictive environment.
IDEA was originally enacted to respond to situations where children with disabilities were being excluded from school without any statutory recourse. Section 615 of IDEA provides detailed procedural safeguards for children with disabilities and their parents. Procedural safeguards are provisions protecting the rights of parents and children with disabilities regarding a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and include notice of rights, mediation, resolution sessions, and due process procedures. Section 615 has been a continual source of controversy, especially the provisions relating to the discipline of children with disabilities. IDEA also provides for attorneys’ fees in some situations, but the Supreme Court has found that parents are not entitled to expert witness fees.
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