The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that ensures a free, public education for disabled children. Before the IDEA became law, schools typically placed special education students in separate special classes which were often in special schools rather than regular public schools. Students who showed significant progress sometimes were mainstreamed and moved into general education classes, though most were not.
The IDEA that changed the approach to special education
Because the IDEA requires schools to educate students in the least restrictive environment possible, many schools have changed the approach to special education. Rather than pulling a student out of the classroom to receive special services, many schools practice inclusion by bringing special needs student’s services into the regular classroom.
Generally, today’s public schools try to create a balance between teaching special education students in regular classrooms when possible and working with a specialist separately during portions of the day. Regardless of the schools approach, disabled children have certain educational rights, including:
- Necessary services and aids to facilitate placement in a regular classroom
- To be taught with non-disabled students where possible, including participation in extracurricular activities
- To remain in the school he or she would regularly attend unless the individualized education program (IEP) directs otherwise
While programs may vary from district to district, your special-needs child has the right to a free, appropriate public education. This means that the school must provide an education that meets the child’s educational needs, regardless of cost and that occurs in the least restrictive environment possible. If your child’s school is not making such an education available to your disabled child, it may be in violation of federal and state education law. Consulting with skilled special education lawyers in NJ can help you determine if your child is being denied his or her right to a free, appropriate public education.
An attorney knowledgeable in NJ school law can offer advice and discuss the legal options available in your child’s circumstances.