Casi Heartstrong, CCC-SLP
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The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of public academic institutions.

Legal Considerations

The most common acronyms you will hear in the realm of special education are:

  • IEP - Individualized Education Program

  • IDEA - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

  • FAPE - Free and Appropriate Public Education

  • LRE - Least Restrictive Environment


Special education and IEP law were generally developed first at the federal level and then at the state level. If there is ever a conflict between state and federal law, federal law must be followed.

The basis for most IEP law is found in three federal statutes, The Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504), and the Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act.   


IDEA is a federal law binding in all states. State law can mandate more protection than IDEA but not less. Each state uses different criteria to determine programs and guidelines for qualifying students for special education. 

IDEA 2004 guarantees four basic rights to children with disabilities.

  • Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)-Children with disabilities are entitled to a public education appropriate to their needs, at no cost to their families. The following are examples of an appropriate program:

    • A specific program or class for your child. 

    • Access to specialists. 

    • Modifications in the educational program such as curriculum and teaching methods.

  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) - If possible, children with disabilities must be educated with students who do not have disabilities and should attend the school that is closest to home.

  • Supplementary Aids and Services - Children with disabilities must be provided with support services that assist them in benefiting educationally from their instructional program.

  • Assessment - An assessment must be completed to determine the child’s needs. This may be done only with the parent’s informed written consent.

In order to assure that these rights are received, IDEA also includes the following protections:

  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)- The IEP must be written at least annually for all children with disabilities. The IEP team consists of those who have assessed the child, school support personnel, a school administrator, general and special education teachers and the child’s parents or legal guardian.

  • Due Process: Due process rights ensure that no changes can be made in a child’s program without prior notice to the parents. Further, due process provides a mechanism for the resolution of disagreements.

Learn more about this topic by visiting these great resources