Special Education / Exceptional Student Education in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida:
Education is vital for every child, but not every child learns the same way. Some children, no matter how hard they try, continue to struggle in school and need extra help or a different program. If a child in public school struggles in school, and needs extra help or a different program to the extent that he or she is not receiving educational benefit, it is the school’s responsibility to find out why and to develop a plan to fix the problem. If your child is struggling and you want to know your legal rights in Florida, please call Gleason Hope Law at (904) 515-0909 for more information.
Two federal laws ensure that schools address the educational needs of students who qualify for their protection. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act both require the school system to provide services, programs and/or accommodations to students who are eligible. Moreover, schools have an affirmative duty to identify students who may qualify for these programs. If your child habitually forgets to bring his or her homework home, or “forgets” to finish it and take it to school, or struggles with reading, math, writing, or social skills, and the school has historically blamed you or your child’s “laziness,” it is possible that it is not your child’s fault – or yours. The school system should be supporting both of you. We can help you address these and other educational issues with the school, and if necessary can challenge the school’s decision at any point during the process; from their responsibility to identify and determine eligibility to the development of an appropriate program and drafting an appropriate individualized education program (IEP).
What is IDEA?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that protects the rights of parents with children who have a disability that affects their education. IDEA is the federal law that requires public schools to provide a free appropriate public education to students who have been found eligible for its protection. The law requires schools to develop and implement an education plan called an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The plan is developed each year through a multidisciplinary team that includes the parents.
Who is eligible?
The law requires the school system to use a multidisciplinary team that includes the parents and anyone they wish to include as equal members of the team. According to federal law, a “child with a disability” is a child with one or more of the enumerated disabilities and “who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.” In other words, the disability must adversely affect the child’s education to qualify for eligibility under the IDEA. The enumerated disabilities include: mental retardation, hearing impairments, speech or language impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities. Once the team determines that a child is eligible, an IEP is drafted and implemented.
What is an IEP?
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a document drafted by the multidisciplinary team at least each year the child is eligible. The document is a joint effort from all members of the team, including the parents. Each IPE must contain specific information including, but not limited to, the present level of performance of the child, annual goals, special education and related services, supplementary aids, the extent of participation with non-disabled peers, appropriate accommodations necessary to measure achievement, and date of implementation.
What is a 504 Plan?
A 504 Plan refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. It is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination for reasons related to their disability. It is broader than the IDEA, but also affords fewer protections. The 504 Plan itself is less formal and allows children with a disability to receive accommodations and modifications that are not available to nondisabled children. All children found eligible under the IDEA qualify for protections under Section 504, but a child qualifying under Section 504 is not necessarily eligible under IDEA.