Overview of Laws


I am a non-lawyer Advocate, and therefore am not a qualified "legal expert", and cannot and will not engage in the practice of law.  The following brief summaries are intended to provide a very brief, general overview for information purposes.  Any action of a legal nature should be taken with the advice of an attorney competent in education law.

Most Education Advocates are not lawyers, but an extensive part of the training to be an Advocate is familiarity with these laws and how they may apply to the circumstances of the particular child. An Advocate’s job is to assist parents in “building a case” based on objective facts to insure their child gets the necessary accommodations and services they are entitled to under these laws. When they don’t get those benefits, a lawyer should be able to take over “the case” with the file that has been prepared, and take it to the next level of appeal or consideration.

There are numerous Federal laws and regulations that govern Special Education and students with disabilities.   These laws assure parents the right to participate in all meetings, to examine all educational records, and to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE) of the child. Parents have the right to written notice when the school proposes to change or refuses to change the identification, evaluation or placement of the child. There are other numerous Procedural Safeguards that are provided to parents.  There are also a large number of Federal court cases that have defined how these laws apply in certain circumstances.  Each of the laws below address particular circumstances that may affect the needs of your child. In many cases more than one law may address an individual student’s needs.   

Each state has its own laws regarding education which are necessarily consistent with Federal law.  Some states may have more liberal policies governing certain aspects or procedures of certain provisions in the law.  

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

  “to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.”   

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA)

  ". . . to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living” and “to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected . . . “  

Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – Section 504

".... to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination for reasons related to their disabilities. Prohibited discrimination includes exclusion from school activities, the unnecessary provision of unequal or separate services, and disability harassment. Examples include not allowing children with disabilities to participate in school field trips, sending children with disabilities home from school earlier than nondisabled children, and retaliating against parents and school employees who advocate for children with disabilities. Section 504 does not ensure that the child with a disability will receive an IEP designed to meet the child’s unique needs and provide the child with educational benefits, with the goal of preparing the child for “further education, employment and independent living.”   

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

  A civil rights law to prohibit discrimination solely on the basis of disability in

employment, public services, and accommodations.  

Embedded in these laws are provisions for accommodations and services to provide successful education and life experiences, and to prohibit discrimination. Because each circumstance is unique Advocates and parents have to insure that such accommodations and services are in fact provided, and that no discrimination exists, in accordance with the promises made by the schools and the law.