Six Pillars of IDEA

Individualized Education Program (IEP)
"The basis for the handicapped child's entitlement to an individualized and appropriate education is the individualized educational program ("IEP"), that a school system must design to meet the unique needs of each child with a disability." Phillip C. v. Jefferson County Bd. of Educ., 701 F. 3d 691, 694 (11th Cir. 2012), citing Doe v. Ala. State Dep't of Educ., 915 F.2d 651, 654 (11th Cir. 1990) and Winkelman v. Parma City Sch. Dist., 550 U.S. 516, 524 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). See also Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 311 (1988) (underscoring the importance of the IEP by describing it as "the centerpiece of the statute's education delivery system for disabled children"). The act requires that public schools create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student who is found to be eligible under both the federal and state eligibility/disability standards. The IEP is the cornerstone of a student's educational program. It specifies the services to be provided and how often, describes the student's present levels of performance and how the student's disabilities affect academic performance, and specifies accommodations and modifications to be provided for the student.

An IEP must be designed to meet the unique educational needs of that one child in the Least Restrictive Environment appropriate to the needs of that child. When a child qualifies for services, an IEP team is convened to design an education plan. In addition to the child's parents, the IEP team must include at least one of the child's regular education teachers (if applicable), a special education teacher, someone who can interpret the educational implications of the child's evaluation, such as a school psychologist, any related service personnel deemed appropriate or necessary, and an administrator or CSE (Committee of Special Education) representative who has adequate knowledge of the availability of services in the district and the authority to commit those services on behalf of the child. Parents are considered to be equal members of the IEP team along with the school staff. Based on the full educational evaluation results, this team collaborates to write an IEP for the individual child, one that will provide a free, appropriate public education. The required content of an IEP is further described in the Individualized Education Program article.

Free Appropriate Public Education
Guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), FAPE is defined as "special education and related services that A) are provided at the public's expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge, B) meet the standards of the State educational agency, C) include an appropriate preschool, elementary, or secondary school education in the State involved; and D) are provided in conformity with the individualized education program under section 614(d). (Pub. L. No. 94-142, § 602(9))" To provide FAPE, schools must provide students with an "… education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living."

Some of the criteria specified in various sections of the IDEA statute includes requirements that schools provide each disabled student an education that:
-Is designed to meet the unique needs of that one student
-Provides " …access to the general curriculum to meet the challenging expectations established for all children" (that is, it meets the approximate grade-level standards of the state educational agency)
-Is provided in accordance with the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as defined in 1414(d)(3).
-Results in educational benefit to the child.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
The U.S. Dept. Education, 2005a regulations implementing IDEA states: " the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities including children in public or private institutions or care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled; and special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily."

Simply put, the LRE is the environment most like that of typical children in which the child with a disability can succeed academically (as measured by the specific goals in the student's IEP). This refers to the two questions decided upon in Daniel R. R. v. State Board of Education, 874 F.2D 1036 (5th Cir. 1989).

This court, relying on Roncker, also developed a two-part test for determining if the LRE requirement is met. The test poses two questions:
-Can an appropriate education in the general education classroom with the use of supplementary aids and services be achieved satisfactorily?
-If a student is placed in a more restrictive setting, is the student "integrated" to the "maximum extent appropriate"? (Standard in AL, DE, GA, FL, LA, MS, NJ, PA, TX).

Appropriate Evaluation
Children are placed in special education services through an evaluation process. If the evaluation is not appropriately conducted, or does not monitor the information that is needed to determine placement it is not appropriate. The goal of IDEA's regulations for evaluation is to help minimize the number of misidentifications, to provide a variety of assessment tools and strategies, to prohibit the use of any single evaluation as the sole criterion of which a student is placed in special education services, and to provide protections against evaluation measures that are racially or culturally discriminatory. Overall, the goal of appropriate evaluation is to get students who need help, extra help that is appropriate for the student and helps that specific student to reach his or her goals set by the IEP team.

Parent and Teacher Participation
A good family-professional partnership is key for a student to receive the education necessary for success. Parents and teachers need to be willing to work together and communicate to determine the best ways of working with and providing information for a student. Both the family and the teacher work together on the IEP team to determine goals, the LRE, and to discuss other important considerations for each individual student. Throughout the whole IEP and special education process parents and families should be updated and kept informed of any decisions made about their specific student. Parents should also be able to provide valuable input about their student to determine placement and other educational goals. Parents as well as teachers are able to challenge any decisions that they feel are inappropriate for the student.

Procedural Safeguards
IDEA includes a set of procedural safeguards designed to protect the rights of children with disabilities and their families, and to ensure that children with disabilities receive a FAPE. The procedural safeguards include the opportunity for parents to review their child's full educational records; full parent participation in identification and IEP team meetings; parent involvement in placement decisions; Prior Written Notice; the right of parents to request independent educational evaluations at public expense; Notice of Procedural Safeguards; Resolution Process; and objective mediation funded by the state education agency and impartial Due Process Hearings. IDEA guarantees the following rights to parents:
-Access to educational records
-Parent Participation (In any and all meetings regarding placement and educational decisions)
-Prior Written Notice (Any time anything will be changed in a student's IEP their parents must first be notified)
-Procedural Safeguards Notice (A written copy should be provided to parents under federal and state law)
Understandable language (Translators must be provided when needed)
-Informed Consent (Before any evaluations or services are provided the student's parents must be informed and agree in writing before the school can move forward)
-"Stay Put" Rights (If parents disagree with the school's decision the student can stay put while the parents and school go through dispute resolution)
-Due Process (If a parent has a dispute with the school about their student's special education placement or teaching a process called due process is used to resolve issues; both parties are then able to tell their sides of the story in a court like setting)
-Civil Action (If due process results are not to the liking of the parent or the school a civil lawsuit can be filed)
-Mediation (An alternative to due process hearings)