Children with special needs deserve to have the same chance at a public education that other students in Alabama and nationwide are entitled to. Therefore, the federal government began passing laws in 1975 that prevented discrimination against disabled students in public schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2013, more than 10 percent of all public school pupils were the recipients of special education services.

The first federal law passed was the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Under this law, students with disabilities must be given the same opportunities for education that other students receive.

In 1990, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed. Under IDEA, students with disabilities must be granted the opportunity to be educated in free, public schools in an environment that is only as restrictive as is necessary to meet the pupil’s needs.

Under IDEA, schools must develop Individualized Educational Programs that specifically lay out what a child with special needs requires to obtain an appropriate public education. An IEP is a written statement that contains an evaluation of the special needs student’s grades, goals and instructional setting. IEPs grant the child’s parents the ability to dispute any problems they may have with the school regarding their special needs child via a neutral third party.

Special education law is very complicated. Therefore, those who believe their child’s rights have been violated will want to seek guidance to help them better understand what laws apply to their situation and what their options are moving forward.