As a parent of a child with a disability or suspected disability, you have no doubt sat in meetings listening to acronyms or other words that you don’t understand or have never heard before. Special education law in Georgia and throughout the country has its own unique language. Public school educators often take for granted that you are aware of the law’s terminology or the acronyms associated with the terminology. Below is a list of terms, acronyms, and phrases that you need to know and how they may impact your child:
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA)-This law, established by the United States Congress in the 1970’s, was designed to desegregate students with disabilities from their separate institutions for inclusion in public school settings.
- Parental Rights-School districts are required, at the very least, to provide your family with a copy of your parental rights under IDEA once a year at your child’s annual IEP team meeting and are required to provide parental rights in the event that your child has a suspected disability that may make him/her eligible for IDEA services. IDEA provides your family with significant rights that you need to understand.
- Child Find-School districts are required to “find” your child. In other words, school districts must identify students within their individual boundaries that are in need of special education services. A failure to do so is a violation of IDEA.
- IDEA eligibility-In order for a student to be eligible under IDEA for services, a student must (1) have an area of suspected disability, (2) have a disability that affects his/her educational performance, and (3) must require direct specialized instruction.
- Individualized Education Program (IEP)-If your child is found eligible under IDEA, he/she is entitled to an IEP. This IEP, in order to comply with IDEA, must offer your child with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The plan is to be “individualized” to meet your child’s needs.
- Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)-FAPE is the cornerstone of IDEA. As defined by Congress and case law, school districts, in offering FAPE, must provide your child with an educational plan that is, at the very least “reasonably calculated to provide educational benefit”.
- Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)-FAPE alone will not comply with IDEA. FAPE must be offered to your child in an environment where they can interact with general education students to the "maximum extent appropriate." This is LRE.
- Mainstreaming/Inclusion-These are terms associated with your child’s least restrictive environment (LRE). Mainstreaming and inclusion is of paramount importance to your child as the goal of IDEA is to ensure that your child is included with general education students to the “maximum extent appropriate”. With appropriately created IEPs and appropriate implementation of these IEPs, your child should be able to remain in a lesser restrictive environment throughout the course of his or her education in a public school setting.
- Goals and Objectives-Your child’s goals and objectives will drive your child’s educational placement and are based upon your child’s current functioning and your parental concerns.
- Extended School Year (ESY)-ESY is intended to ensure that your child, during the breaks of the regular school year, does not regress regarding his or her education.
- Supportive Aids and Services-This is an essential element of the IEP. Supportive aids and services, such as additional time during testing, assistive technology (AT) devices, and paraprofessional support, to name a few potential supports, are designed to mainstream your child as much as possible.
- Placement-This is the most critical part of your child’s IEP. Placement, just like it sounds, is where your child will be "educationally placed" during his or her school day.
- Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA)-An FBA is designed to identify the cause of a child’s behavior in an effort to minimize and/or eliminate such behavior to ensure the child may benefit as much as possible from his or her education within a public school district.
- Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)-The goal of the BIP, which should be created after completion of an FBA, is to find effective “interventions” to your child’s behavior based upon your child's unique behavioral needs so that he/she may continue to progress in their educational environment.
- Manifestation Determination Review (MDR)-In the event that your child, if eligible under IDEA, has received more than a cumulative amount of ten (10) days of suspension, they are entitled to an MDR to determine whether the behavior exhibited is a manifestation of you child's disability.
- Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)-In order to level the playing field, Congress specifically enacted a law in IDEA that allows families to obtain their own evaluations at the expense of a school district subsequent to a school district's evaluation. In the Kline Law Firm’s experience, at least ninety (90) percent of these evaluations are granted.
- Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)- This is a nondiscrimination statute enacted by Congress in 1973, which prohibits discrimination of students with disabilities. Further, under this statute, students with disabilities are entitled to equal access and benefits afforded to their non-disabled peers as well as disciplinary protections.
- Section 504 Eligibility- Under Section 504, a student is eligible if the student has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.
- Protection under Section 504- Students eligible under Section 504 are protected from discrimination based on their disability. In addition, they receive discipline protections.
- Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)- School districts must provide FAPE to each qualified student with a disability within its jurisdiction regardless of the nature or severity of the identified disability.
- Equal Access- Students with disabilities, who are eligible under Section 504, are entitled to participate in and receive benefit from activities which are afforded to their non-disabled peers. This includes participation in extracurricular and non-academic activities.
- Manifestation Determination Review (MDR)-Students eligible under Section 504 are entitled to discipline protections. In the event that your child has received more than a cumulative amount of ten (10) days of suspension, they are entitled to an MDR.
- Section 504 Team- This is a team comprised of persons knowledgeable about your child who have an understanding of and can explain evaluation data and are aware of service and placement options.
- Parental Rights under Section 504-Parents of eligible students are afforded certain rights under Section 504. Parents are entitled to receive these rights and to be provided a full explanation of these rights.
- Child Find- Under Section 504, each year, school districts must locate and identify students with disabilities within their boundaries who are not receiving public school education and must notify parents/guardians of students with disabilities of the school district’s duties and responsibilities under Section 504.
- Office of Civil Rights (OCR)- OCR enforces civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination in education programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and age.