It is of high importance to the state of Pennsylvania that all children receive the education they need and deserve. It is because of this that there are certain laws in place to ensure that they do. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) enforces this in programs that receive funds from them. ED has implemented a regulation that requires school districts to provide a “free, appropriate public education” (FAPE) to qualified individuals with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.
What is FAPE?
A free, appropriate public education is the standard of education that is guaranteed to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It ensures all eligible children between the ages of three and 21 receive a program of special education and related services that are designed to meet their unique needs. This must be done in conformity with an Individualized Education Program, at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charging the child’s parents.
Who is Entitled to FAPE?
The ED Section 504 regulation defines a person with a disability as “any person who: (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment.” When dealing with elementary and secondary education programs, a qualified person with a disability is:
- A person of an age during which it is mandatory under state law to provide such services to persons with disabilities
- A person of an age during which persons without disabilities are provided such services
- A person who is entitled to receive a free, appropriate public education under IDEA
Simply put, all school-age children who have disabilities as defined by Section 504 and IDEA are entitled to FAPE.
What is an Appropriate Education?
According to Pennsylvania law, an appropriate education includes the following:
- Education services designed to meet the individual education needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met
- The education of each student with a disability with nondisabled students, to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the student with a disability
- Evaluation and placement procedures established to guard against misclassification or inappropriate placement of students, and a periodic reevaluation of students who have been provided special education services
- Established of due process procedures that enable parents and guardians to receive required notices, review their child’s records, and challenge placement decisions
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Anderson, Converse & Fennick is an experienced law firm in York County, Pennsylvania focusing on Education Law, Family Law, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation matters. If you need a knowledgeable attorney that will effectively represent your interests, contact Anderson, Converse & Fennick today.