Special Education and the Rights of the Disabled to Equal Access

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) prevents public schools from discriminating against students with disabilities, guaranteeing access to free, equal public education. Special education must meet the unique needs of the child and prepare him or her for further education and independent living.

Services may include small group or individualized instruction, assistance technology, and rehabilitation aids such as speech therapy. While the education has to be appropriate for the district, it does not have to be the best available. Disabled children should not be unfairly isolated from their classmates. The law requires that they be educated alongside other children whenever possible.

Assessments of Your Child

Each state is responsible for carrying out the IDEA, and the school system is responsible for evaluating the child to see if the child qualifies for special education. Parents cannot force the school district to use an outside evaluation. A variety of disabilities entitle the child to special education, including learning disabilities such as AD/HD, behavioral problems, mental retardation, emotional disturbances, or hyperactivity, as well as some physical limitations such as sight or hearing loss.

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The IEP and Placement

Once the child qualifies for special ed, the school and the parents create an individualized education program (IEP). Parents unhappy with their child’s IEP are entitled to a hearing. If the court or administrative body determines the public school is not giving an appropriate education, it may be possible for parents to get reimbursement for a private school placement.

Disability Harassment

Unfortunately, disabled children are sometimes victims of harassment from other students and surprisingly, sadly, even teachers. Harassment that interferes with learning may violate the child’s civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

How Can a Lawyer Help?

You may need a lawyer if you want a hearing regarding your child’s IEP, if your child has been denied access to public schools, or is being harassed. Contact an education law attorney for specific advice about your situation.

For More Help: See the Free Advice section on Education Law for general information on your child’s rights.

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