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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What is FAPE and What Can it Mean to My Child?

From NCLD.org - The National Center for Learning Disabilities

By NCLD Editorial Staff
September 2, 2012

FAPE is the acronym for a Free and Appropriate Public Education. It is one of the most misunderstood concepts of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).

And, it often causes the greatest conflict between parents and schools.

A required component of IDEA, FAPE mandates that school districts provide access to general education and specialized educational services. It also requires that children with disabilities receive support free of charge as is provided to non-disabled students. It also provides access to general education services for children with disabilities by encouraging that support and related services be provided to children in their general education settings as much as possible.

Over the years, the courts have helped define what FAPE is and is not. In short, it is vital for parents to understand that IDEA is not an entitlement program that provides disabled children with a better education than is provided to non-disabled students.

Use the information below to help you learn what FAPE can mean to you and your child, and to dispel the many myths about FAPE.

FAPE Myths

Children with disabilities cannot be charged for
  • Materials;
  • Student fees;
  • Any other costs that are requested of general education students. 
Children with disabilities are not required to
  • Complete basic requirements for graduation;
  • Pass state-approved assessments that demonstrate State standards. 
The district must provide
  • A specific specialized program or school setting that is chosen by the parent;
  • A program that provides the child greater access to educational materials than their non-disabled peers; FAPE also does not require that a school provide educational services that are superior to those provided to non-disabled peers. 
The student with a disability
  • Must be provided preferential treatment or guaranteed placement in extracurricular activities;
  • Does not have to meet the basic requirements of participation that are required of non-disabled peers.
FAPE Facts

Special education and related services are provided
  • At public expense;
  • Under public supervision and direction;
  • Without charge to the parent or guardian.
Children with disabilities are provided
  • Modifications;
  • Accommodations;
  • Support services under their Individual Education Plans (IEPs).
(These allow them to have access to and benefit from instruction so they can meet the standards of the State Education Authority.)

The district must provide a program that
  • Complies with the procedural requirements of IDEA;
  • Addresses the child's unique needs as identified by evaluations, observation, and the child's educational team;
  • Is coordinated to ensure the child is able to make adequate progress in the educational setting. FAPE requires that the quality of educational services provided to students with disabilities be equal to those provided to non-disabled students. 
The student with a disability
  • Must have access to nonacademic and extracurricular activities equal to those provided to non-disabled peers.
The History of Free and Appropriate Public Education

To fully understand the intent of FAPE, one must turn the clock back 160 years to the 1840s. This is when the first Common Schools were founded and an organized educational system began. Prior to 1840, education was privately provided and not available to the masses.

Horace Mann and Henry Barnard led the crusade to develop statewide common-school systems. The goal was to provide opportunities for all children and to create common bonds among diverse populations. During this time, however, few people held the belief that children with disabilities could be educated.

As the movement grew, legislators developed compulsory attendance laws. By 1918, all states had some form of public education for elementary-aged students. As the years progressed, compulsory high school was introduced. But the federal government did not provide funding for public education until 1958. This is when it passed the National Defense of Education Act.

At this time, educational services for children with vision or hearing disabilities were usually provided by the state in a state-run facility. They were rarely provided in local communities, which would have allowed these children to remain living at home. Educational services for children with other types of disabilities were 'hit or miss' — at best.

In 1965, there was a national movement to correct the inequalities of education for persons who were economically disadvantaged and/or disabled. This led to the passage of Public Law (P.L.) 89-10, commonly referred to as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

In the 1970s, reauthorization of ESEA Title VI was added as the Education of the Handicapped Act. Often referred to as Part B, it established grant programs for local districts to expand the development of programs and services to children with disabilities.

At the time, there was no discussion of 'appropriate' services or how and where services would be provided to children with disabilities. This was at the complete discretion of the local education authority.

In 1974, Congress addressed 'appropriate' education for children with disabilities by passing the Education of the Handicapped Act amendment and the subsequent passage of P.L. 94-142.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 mandated FAPE and ensured due process, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and Least Restrictive Placements (LREs). It required local education authorities to provide educational services within the community, which allowed children with disabilities to remain living with their families. Although children were provided access to schools within their districts, this still created two educational tracks -- one for non-disabled children and a second for children with disabilities.

In 1990, the law was reauthorized and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It provided access to general education services for children with disabilities by encouraging that support and related services be provided to children in their general education settings as much as possible.

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