Individuals with Disabilities Education Actchild-advocacy-6

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (formerly called P.L. 94-142 or the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975) requires public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs.

IDEA requires public school systems to develop appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEP’s) for each child. The specific special education and related services outlined in each IEP reflect the individualized needs of each student.

IDEA also mandates that particular procedures be followed in the development of the IEP. Each student’s IEP must be developed by a team of knowledgeable persons and must be at least reviewed annually. The team includes the child’s teacher; the parents, subject to certain limited exceptions; the child, if determined appropriate; an agency representative who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education; and other individuals at the parents’ or agency’s discretion.

If parents disagree with the proposed IEP, they can request a due process hearing and a review from the State educational agency if applicable in that state. They also can appeal the State agency’s decision to State or Federal court.

Statistics in California for the 2002-2003 school year do not support
Congress’ underlying premise.

Attorneys were responsible for less than 40% of all requests for due process hearings.
With respect to due process decisions rendered, parents won all or part of those cases approximately 72% of the time when represented by an attorney.
When parents represented themselves, they lost 75% of the time.
School districts where represented by an attorney in approximately 80% of the cases decided.
In cases where school districts were represented by an attorney, they lost all or part of the cases approximately 58% of the time.