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Disability Discrimination

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (20 U.S.C.A. §§ 1400–1485) requires states to provide a free, appropriate public education to children who are disabled. Formerly known as the Education of the Handicapped Act or the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, the law was established in 1975 in response to studies showing that more than half of all disabled children were receiving an inappropriate public education, and about one-eighth of those children were simply excluded from public education altogether.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that states provide a free and appropriate public education to children who are disabled.

IDEA requires states seeking federal financial assistance for education to develop plans ensuring disabled children a free education that meets their needs. IDEA covers children ages three to 21 who have educational disabilities—in other words, mental retardation; hearing, speech, or language impairments; visual impairments; serious emotional disturbances; orthopedic impairments; autism; traumatic brain injuries; and specific learning disabilities—and as a result of such conditions require special education and related services such as transportation to and from school. The act does not, under normal circumstances, cover a child who is nearsighted and needs glasses, or a child who walks with a leg brace; many children with minor disabilities can be educated without special attention.

Each child covered by IDEA is entitled to have an individualized educational program, or IEP, developed jointly by the child's parents and school personnel. The IEP describes the child's abilities and needs, and outlines educational placement and services that will address the listed needs. IDEA contains procedural safeguards designed to ensure that parents can participate in the IEP process and have methods of recourse if they disagree with educators about their child's education.

Finally, IDEA supports the INTEGRATION of disabled children by requiring that they receive their education in the least restrictive environment. The goal of this requirement is to keep children with disabilities in regular public school classrooms to the extent possible. Only when a satisfactory education cannot be achieved in regular classes, even with the use of supplementary aids and services, may a disabled child be removed from regular classes. In many cases, children with disabilities are mainstreamed—placed in a regular educational setting—for part of their school day, and removed to a special-needs setting for the other part. Depending on the disability, children may be mainstreamed into certain academic classes or simply during lunch, during study hall, or on the school bus.

Additional topics

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