The Six Main
Principles of IDEA
The following six main principles of IDEA
embody the underlying spirit and intent of IDEA and provide the
framework around which special education services are designed
and provided to students with disabilities:
Appropriate Public Education — IDEA guarantees
that each child with a disability, eligible for special
education, will be entitled to a free appropriate public
Free requires that the education of each child with a
disability must be provided at public expense and at no cost
to the child’s parents. The only exception is that
incidental fees normally charged to non-disabled students or
their parents as part of the regular education program may
also be charged to students with disabilities and their
Appropriate means that each child with a disability is
entitled to an education that is “appropriate” for his or
her needs. “Appropriate education” is determined on an
individual basis and may not be the same for each child with
Public refers to the public school system. Children with
disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of their
disabilities, have the same right to attend the public
schools as their non-disabled peers. The public school
system must educate students with disabilities, respond to
their individual needs, and help them plan for their future.
Education - IDEA is an education act that guarantees
that eligible children with disabilities will receive a
public education that includes special education and related
services as directed by the child's Individualized Education
Program (IEP), based on the child's individual needs.
Evaluation — IDEA requires that each child
suspected of having a disability receive an appropriate
- In all areas of suspected disability.
- By a team of evaluators knowledgeable
and trained in the use of the tests and other evaluation
materials they use.
- Employing a variety of sound
evaluation materials and procedures selected and
administered so as not to be racially or culturally
- Without subjecting a child to
unnecessary tests and assessments.
- Including the gathering of relevant
information from a variety of sources.
- Based on information that is useful
instructionally in planning for the child’s education.
- An appropriate evaluation provides
information to be used to determine the child’s eligibility
for special education and related services and the
educational needs of the child.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) — In order
to ensure that students with disabilities receive an
appropriate and individualized education, IDEA requires
that, after drawing upon current evaluation information, the
IEP team develop a written document, the IEP, designed to
meet the unique educational needs of each student with
disabilities. IDEA contains clear language about:
- The information which the IEP must
- Who develops the IEP.
- The public agency’s obligation to
provide the special education and related services
identified in the IEP.
Restrictive Environment (LRE) — IDEA guarantees
that a child with a disability will receive a free
appropriate public education in the least restrictive
environment (LRE) appropriate. This principle reflects
IDEA’s strong preference for educating students with
disabilities in general education classes with the access to
general education curriculum. Placement in the general
education classroom is the first placement option the IEP
team must consider.
When considering placement in the general education
classroom, the team is required to explore the range of
modifications and supplementary aids and services that are
needed to ensure that the student can receive a satisfactory
education in the general education classroom. If the IEP
team determines that the student can be appropriately
educated in the general education classroom using
modifications/supplementary aids and services, this is the
LRE for that particular student.
However, the IEP team may determine that the student cannot
be educated satisfactorily in the general classroom, even
with the provision of modifications and supplementary aids
and services. The team must then consider other placements
outside of the general classroom in order to provide FAPE
for the child. The range of such placements that each school
system is required to have available is commonly referred to
as the “continuum of alternative placements.” Thus, like all
other components of a student's special education, the LRE
must be determined for each student based upon
that child’s individual needs.
- Parent and
Student Participation in Decision Making — This
principle reinforces the belief that the education of
children with disabilities is made more effective by
strengthening the role of parents in the special education
process. IDEA requires that parents (and students, as
appropriate) participate in each step of the special
education process. Students must be invited to participate
in IEP meetings where transition services are to be
discussed. Parent involvement includes:
- Equal partnership in the
- The right to receive notice.
- The right to give consent for certain
activities such as evaluations, changes in placement; and
release of information to others.
- The right to participate in all
meetings concerning their child's special education.
Safeguards — Procedural safeguards are a set of
activities whose purpose is to ensure that:
- The rights of children with
disabilities and their parents are protected.
- All information needed to make
decisions about the provision of a free appropriate public
education to the student is provided to parents of children
with disabilities and to the student when appropriate.
- Procedures (mediation and due
process) are in place to resolve disagreements between
safeguards under IDEA include the right of parents to:
- Inspect and review their child’s
- Obtain an independent educational
- Be given written prior notice on
matters regarding the identification, evaluation, or
educational placement of their child.
- Request mediation and an impartial
due process hearing.
- Be given a full explanation of all of
the procedural safeguards under IDEA and State complaint
- Appeal the initial hearing decision
to the State Education Agency (SEA) if the SEA did not
conduct the hearing; (also the right of the public agency).
- Have child remain in his/her present
educational placement, unless the parent and the public
agency agree otherwise, while administrative or judicial
proceedings are pending.
- Bring a civil action in an
appropriate State or Federal court to appeal a final hearing
decision; (also the right of the public agency).
- Request reasonable attorney’s fees
from a court for actions or proceedings brought under the
IDEA under certain circumstances.
- Give or refuse consent before their
child is evaluated or reevaluated.
- Participate in (and in some cases to
appeal) discipline decisions regarding students with