Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

May 20
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by Doug Goldberg

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is a myth!  Generally[1] speaking, if your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) they are either receiving a Free Public Education or an Appropriate Public Education but not both.  The term FAPE means special education and related services that:

  1. have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;
  2. meet the standards of the State educational agency;
  3. include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and
  4. are provided in conformity with the IEP required under Section 1414(d) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

This is a very vague definition and has lead to the courts having to decide what the intention was behind this definition.  In the Board of Education v. Rowley, the U. S. Supreme Court concluded that a child with a disability should be provided a basic floor of opportunity.  Not the best education but one that is reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive some educational benefit.  “Congress did not impose upon the States any greater substantive educational standard than would be necessary to make such access meaningful. Indeed, Congress expressly “recognize[d] that in many instances the process of providing special education and related services to handicapped children is not guaranteed to produce any particular outcome.” (From Board of Education v. Rowley).

My son is receiving an Appropriate Public Education because my wife and I have made an investment in his future.  “Not guaranteed to produce any particular outcome,” was not good enough for us.  The investment in your child’s education may come in many forms:

  1. Your time and Parent involvement;
  2. A paid special education advocate;
  3. A special education attorney;
  4. An expert witness to testify at a due process hearing;
  5. Paid tutors or other therapists (outside of what the school has offered);
  6. One parent quitting their job to stay home and manage their child’s health and educational needs;
  7. Homeschooling; and
  8. Other options I have not thought of but you have!

There's no such thing as a free lunch.  My wife and I spend hour’s everyday re-teaching concepts my son learned in school.  His Teachers are great but 56 minutes a day per subject is not enough for my son to receive some educational benefit.  Also, we have invested in special education attorneys, educational therapists and other therapists when we felt the need was warranted.  Making these decisions sometimes meant we needed to cut back elsewhere but we made the decisions anyway.  In the long run, we are very happy to make these investments and will do anything we need to do to make my son’s future bright.


[1] Please note the word generally is meant just as it is defined in disregard of specific instances and with regard to an overall picture.

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