Students with disabilities are entitled under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, federal civil rights’ laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the IDEA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, their respective state constitutions, and state law, to be free from discrimination and to be provided equal educational opportunity to learn that which all other students are expected to learn.
Indeed, all of these legal safeguards guarantee, as they have from their inception, that students with disabilities must be educated in regular education settings to the maximum extent appropriate and prohibit their exclusion from an inclusive environment unless only when they cannot access the curriculum satisfactorily even with appropriate supplementary aids, supports and services.
That is, students with disabilities are to be first and foremost educated in the Least Restrictive Environment, which is the regular education setting. Special education makes it possible for your child to achieve academic success despite his/her disability and to do so with inclusion in the regular education primarily and whenever possible. Remember that eligibility for an IEP does not mean a student must be enrolled in a special education classroom.
Yet, despite clearly mandated legal rights and numerous judicial rulings, we still see students with disabilities continue to be isolated and separately educated, provided a diluted and inferior education, and denied meaningful opportunities to learn. It is our goal and objective to help you ensure that your child not be denied such legally mandated opportunities.
Parents should familiarize themselves with these laws, as they are pivotal in the pursuit of their child’s educational rights. Step one in a parent’s quest for knowledge about special education is to know exactly what special education is.