Five Things Every Parent of a Special Needs Child Should Know - a VERY brief legal introduction

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Your Rights Under Federal and State Law

Every child has certain rights written into State and Federal law. Most importantly they have the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), an individualized educational program that is designed to meet the child's unique needs, from which the child receives educational benefit, preparing them for further education, employment, and independent living. See, 20 U. S. C. A. ? 1401(9), Ohio Revised Code (R.C.) ?? 3323.02, 3323.07.


The Six Components of FAPE

Ohio in Administrative Code (OAC) rule 301-51-01(B) (23) defines FAPE as six components:1) Special education and related services;2) Free to families, provided at public expense;3) Supervised and directed by a public agency (via state and local educational agencies, e.g., public schools);4) Based on the standards of the SEA (e.g., the state's general and special education standards and regulations);5) Provided in an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school in the State; and6) Provided in accordance with an appropriately developed IEP.


The IEP - Individual Education Plan.

An IEP is:developed following the procedures in federal law (IDEA);reasonably calculated to provide educational benefit to the student;designed to provide benefit that is more than trivial; inclusive of the necessary supports and services to be provided in the least restrictive environment.


Is Your Child's Educational Program Appropriate?

Be aware that children are only entitled to an APPROPRIATE public education; not the best or the one that provides maximum benefit.Evans v. Rhinebeck (S.D. NY, 1996), 930 F.Supp. 83.To determine if a school district has provided an appropriate education (FAPE), hearing officers and judges must analyze two issues: (1) Procedural requirements - Did the district comply with the procedural requirements and provisions in developing the child's IEP? (2) Substantive requirements - Is the district's IEP "reasonably calculated to confer educational benefit?"


Exceptions to FAPE for certain ages, the school district of residence does not have to make FAPE available to all children with disabilities for:

1. Children with disabilities who have graduated from high school with a regular diploma; Yet this exception does not apply to children who have graduated but have not been awarded a regular high school diploma;2. Graduation from high school with a regular high school diploma constitutes a change in placement, requiring written prior notice in accordance with OAC rule 3301-51-05;3. As used above, the term regular high school diploma does not include an alternative degree that is not fully aligned with Ohio's academic content standards, such as a certificate or a general educational development credential. A child with a disability who has been awarded a certificate or a general development credential may, before the child's 22nd birthday, re-enroll in the school district tuition free and receive FAPE while the child continues to work on a regular HS diploma up to the child's 22nd birthday; and 4. Children who receive early intervention

Additional Resources

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA) is an organization of attorneys, advocates, parents and other professionals. COPAA members work to protect special education rights and secure excellence in education on behalf of the 7.1 million children with disabilities in America. With over 1200 members nationwide, COPAA is at the forefront of special education advocacy The Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD) is a statewide, nonprofit organization that serves families of infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities in Ohio, and agencies who provide services to them. OCECD works through the coalition efforts of over 40 parent and professional disability organizations which comprise the Coalition Attorney Pete Wright created a fantastic website with tons of resources to educate laypeople and Attorneys alike. He is a lion in the field and I have stolen er' that is LEARNED more from him than he will ever know. Attorney Andrew Cuddy is another lion in this field. He recruited me into the practice of special education law and knows how much I have stolen . . . . er . . . . LEARNED from him. Ohio families may of course also contact this author, Attorney, Todd Kotler at 330-777-0065 or e-mail him at

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities


Andrew Cuddy's Special Education Battlefield

The Importance of Written Documentation

Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit

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