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PEATC, Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center
Assisting families of children with special needs since 1978
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Six Major Principles of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

1. All children will be served.

Congress intended that no child in need of special education will be excluded from receiving services - even those children with the most severe disabilities. Prior to IDEA, many parents remember being told by school administrators, "We are sorry, we just don't have a program for her. She is too severely disabled." The parents had no recourse. Now, all children with disabilities between the ages of three and 21 are entitled to educational services. Most states provide early intervention services to children between birth and three.

2. Children will be tested fairly to determine if they will receive special education services.

Before children can be declared eligible for special education or placed in a special education program, they must be evaluated by a team of professionals. The law requires that schools and other agencies give tests to children that show both their strengths and their weaknesses. This is called nondiscriminatory testing. All tests must be given to children in their own language and in such a way that their abilities and their disabilities are accurately displayed. Children will be placed in special education based upon several tests, not upon one single test or test score. Nondiscriminatory testing ensures that children who do not need special education will not be placed there, and that children who need special school services will get them.

3. Schools have a duty to provide individually designed, appropriate programs for every child at no cost to their parents.

IDEA provides a free, appropriate public education the all children who have been identified as needing special education. The state and local school systems bear the responsibility to pay for the education even if it is provided in a private or residential school outside of the local public school system. In addition, each child is guaranteed an appropriate education. The appropriateness is determined by a group of people, including parents and educators, who work together to design a program that addresses the child's individual educational problems. This program is called an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Your child has a right to a full range of educational services that may include such related services as special transportation, speech/language therapy, counseling, occupational therapy, or other services necessary to enable him/her to benefit from special education.

4. Children with disabilities will be educated with children who are not disabled.

Before IDEA our schools almost always segregated children with disabilities from children without disabilities. Now, however, our nation has legal requirements that all student have equal access to education. As a result, increasing numbers of children with disabilities are being mainstreamed or integrated into their community's regular schools. Under IDEA students with disabilities are guaranteed services in the least restrictive environment. That is, when the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is written, a determination is made regarding the amount of time each student with disabilities will spend with nondisabled peers both in classroom and all other school activities. Students are to be educated in a separate classroom or school only when the nature and the severity of their disabilities makes it impossible to meet their educational needs in a less restrictive environment.

5. The decisions of the school system can be challenged by parents.

Prior to the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), parents had little or no recourse if they disagreed with the decisions made by the school authorities. Under IDEA, parents and students have a right to due process. Under these due process rights, provisions are made for the settlement of disputes by an impartial third party.Parents have the right to challenge decisions made about their children in the areas of inclusion or exclusion from special services, testing in a nondiscriminatory manner, the appropriateness of the education as written in the IEP, the placement of their child in the least restrictive educational environment, and other related areas.

In addition to the guarantee of the right to challenge, IDEA provides parents with the right to notice. When any change is to be made with regard to testing, entrance or exit from services, the IEP, or the amount of time the child will be with nondisabled children, the parents must first be notified. In many situations, the consent of parents is also required before school personnel can make changes.

6. Parents of children with disabilities participate in the planning and decision making for their child's special education.

Each of the preceding principles has either direct or indirect implications for parental participation. Parents' rights primarily involve access to students' educational records for inspection and review and the need for parental consent to release personally identifiable information. Examples of parental involvement include the necessity for giving permission for initial evaluation and placement, participating in meetings for IEP development and review, and providing written approval of the IEP.

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Copyright © 2020 PEATC - Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center. All rights reserved.

Content on this site was produced, in part, with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education, under CFDA # 84.328M, #84.310A, and #84.235F. The content herein does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Education, any other agency of the U.S. government, or any other source.

PEATC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to building positive futures for Virginia's children by working collaboratively with families, schools and communities in order to improve opportunities for excellence in education and success in school and community life. Our special focus is children with disabilities. You can reach PEATC by calling 703-923-0010 (Voice/TTY), or sending an e-mail to

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