What is the IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that is a source of federal aid to children with disabilities. At its core, the IDEA requires that school districts and other local education agencies provide children with special needs a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).


A FAPE means that special education and related services are to be provided as described in an individualized education program (IEP) and under public supervision to your child at no cost to you.

FAPE requirements

FAPE requires that a child's special education:

  • Must be provided at public expense;

  • Meets the state education standards;

  • Includes appropriate preschool, elementary school, and secondary education; and

  • Follows an Individualized Education Program("IEP") that is specially designed for the child.

LRE requirements

School Districts are also required to provide a student with a program in the least restrictive environment ("LRE"), with removal from the regular education environment occurring only when the nature and severity of the student's disabilities is such that education in the regular classroom with supplementary aids and services cannnot be achieved satisfactorily.   

Parent rights

Under the IDEA, parents have a right to:

  •  A complete explanation of the procedural safeguards available under IDEA;

  •  Review and inspect their child's educational records; 

  • Obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation ("IEE") of their child if they disagree with the school district's assessment;

  • Receive prior written notice on matters regarding the placement, evaluation, and identification of their child, and the provision of FAPE;

  • Participate in IEP meetings;

  • File for due process and appeal decisions to state or federal court when they disagree with the district’s determinations or the implementation of their child’s IEP.

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The information on the Caledattorney website is general information for California residents only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice or relied upon for any purpose. Contact California special education attorney Molly Watson for more information about legal services.

Molly Watson is available to meet with parents by Skype or FaceTime.


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