IDEA 97 Public Law 94-142 passed in 1975, was also known as the Education for all Handicapped Children Act. The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1990 was an update of this law. IDEA 97 is a revision of the 1990 Act. The law addresses six major principles:
- Free Appropriate Education (zero exemptions)
- Nondiscriminatory Evaluation
- Individualized Education Plan
- Least Restrictive Environment
- Due Process
- Parent Participation
The law guarantees all children with disabilities a free, appropriate public education. States are required to provide educational opportunities for students from ages 3 to 21. Nondiscriminatory evaluation is required which means that there must be a full evaluation for each child, free from cultural bias and language barriers. Each student who is identified will have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) tailored to his or her unique needs. The IEP must meet certain requirements in terms of participants, content, time lines, parent involvement and accountability. The student must be educated in the least restrictive environment. To the maximum extent possible, students with disabilities should be educated with their non-disabled peers. The right to due process demands that a procedure be in place to ensure fairness and appropriateness to both parents and professionals. This includes due process hearings, the right to an evaluation, written notice to parents and parental consent. Parent participation is required every step of the way in providing special education services. Extensive rights for parents are defined regarding confidentiality, attendance at meetings, permission to evaluate and permission to place. The laws are positive. It has been estimated that twenty percent of the American population is disabled. Every family is affected in some way by a member (at least of the extended family) having a mental or physical disability. There is still much prejudice in our world about individuals who are different. Protecting their civil rights is not a favor...it is the law!