California Special Education Law

Advocacy Resources, Hearing & Appeal Decisions, Statistics and More for Parents

Your Special Needs Child's Legal Rights

What is the IDEA?

The IDEA was amended in 1997 to provide related services (accommodations) to children in the general education curriculum. Previously, the law did not specifically incorporate disabled students within general education classrooms. The IDEA now mandates improving teaching and learning by specific focus on the Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) as the primary means of developing a child’s involvement in the general curriculum to the greatest extend possible.

The IDEA was again amended in 2004. IDEA 2004 contains a number of procedural and substantive changes and brings the IDEA into compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

The IDEA 2004 statutory language states “Over 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by… having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access in the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible.” 20 U.S.C. § 1400(5)(A).

Specific Provisions:

Civil Rights. IDEA is a “grant statute” that creates civil rights.

Substantive Protections. The IDEA requires:

  • All children with disabilities are to be given a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
  • Education and Related Services must be provided to children up to the age of 21 (California extends this to age 22).
  • Education includes academic as well as self-help and vocational skills.
  • Education must be provided in the “Least Restrictive Environment” (LRE).
  • Education must be individualized and appropriate to the child’s needs.

Procedure Protections. Procedural Protections of the IDEA include:

  • A child’s right to be given notice of a proposed decision about his educational program.
  • Notice must be given to parents regarding their procedural protections and substantive protections under the IDEA.
  • Right to an IEP.
  • Right to an administrative or court hearing and the right to have a record of the hearing.
  • Right for child to remain in his educational setting until any dispute is resolved (Stay-Put Provision).
  • Right to attorneys’ fees if the family is the prevailing party at an administrative hearing.