top of page
Enjoying the Woods

What is the IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that establishes a formal process for evaluating children children with disabilities and providing individualized education programs and services. The purpose of the IDEA is to ensure children with disabilities receive an appropriate education. To achieve this goal, the IDEA imposes requirements on school districts and other local education agencies.The federal government provides financial assistance to states to implement the IDEA, and states must adopt laws to implement the IDEA.

Eligibility Under the IDEA

The IDEA defines children with disabilities as students between the ages of 3 years-old and twenty-two-years-old who have one or more of the following conditions:

  • Hearing impairment

  • Speech and language impairment

  • Other health impairment

  • Visual impairment 

  • Mental retardation

  • Emotional disturbance

  • Orthopedic impairment

  • Autism

  • Deaf-blindness

  • Specific learning disability

  • Traumatic brain injury

  • Multiple disabilities

FAPE Requirements Under the IDEA

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 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 Under the IDEA

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.   

Parental Rights Under the IDEA

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 regarding IEPs

If you need help resolving a special education dispute with your child's school district, call us for help.

IDEA Procedures for Resolving Disputes

When parents and school districts cannot agree as to the adequacy of a child's IEP, the IDEA establishes formal complaint procedures for resolving disputes. A parent may file a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), which is the quasi-judicial administrative body in California that hears special education matters. Through OAH, the parties may resolve their dispute through a resolution meeting, mediation, a hearing, or less formally.

bottom of page