Aspects of Special Education
Education is as much a legal issue as it is an educational one.
Several federal laws delineate the ways in which schools handle
children with special needs.
Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): FERPA states
that parents have the right to inspect all of their child’s
school records and to correct those records if they are inaccurate.
The law also maintains that in most cases, a school cannot disclose
information about a child (e.g. academic records) unless the
school has express permission from the parents. The school does
have the right, however, to disclose directory information about
the child, provided the parent is notified. This act has had
great legal implications for special education, as parents of
children with special needs previously could be kept in the
dark if schools made a mistake with their child. Since the passage
of FERPA, parents can now vigilantly monitor their child’s progress
and the way in which schools deal with their child’s disability.
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): IDEA was restructured
in 1997. The act has four sections: I. General Provisions, II.
Assistance for Education of All Children with Disabilities,
III. Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities, and IV. National
Activities to Improve Education of Children with Disabilities.
One particularly important aspect of the restructuring effort
was the changes made to Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for
students with disabilities. Also, as the American Speech and
Language Association website explains, “The IEP members have
also been expanded to include, among others, the special education
teacher, and the regular education teacher, as appropriate.
Related services personnel may be specified as team members
by the school or the parents.”
Rehabilitation Act: Section 504 states that “No otherwise
qualified handicapped individual in the United States, as defined
in section 706(6) of this title, shall, solely by reason of
his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied
the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any
program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or
under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency
or by the United States Postal Service.” This law has meaning
outside the school setting, but within the school context, it
provides, most importantly, that special education students
will not be denied financial aid or adequate facilities within
public schools. Some private schools are designated as “funded,”
meaning that some students receive financial aid.