Introduction to Special Education Law



  1. Definition: IEP teams must first develop the educational program for the student prior to determining where the program will be implemented. An IEP establishes present educational levels for students; establishes annual goals, short-term objectives to meeting those goals with a schedule and procedures for evaluating progress; it describes the specially designed instruction that students will receive in order to work on the short-term objectives. The IEP will also describe what, if any, related services the student needs in order to benefit from her educational program. Even if the MDT does not believe that the student is exceptional, the IEP team must nevertheless convene to make decisions regarding educational programming for the student.

  2. IEP Team Membership

    1. Mandatory minimum IEP team membership consists of both a special education and a regular education teacher of the child, an LEA, and the parents.

      1. The regular education teacher must “to the extent appropriate, participate in the review and revision of the IEP of the child,” including a determination of:

        1. appropriate positive behavioral interventions;

        2. supplementary aides and services and program modifications;

        3. support for school personnel.
          The House Report on the Act clarifies the role of the regular education teacher as follows:
          The committee recognizes the reasonable concern that the provision including the regular education teacher might create an obligation that the teacher participate in all aspects of the IEP team’s work. The committee does not intend that to be the case and only intends it to be the extent appropriate.”

      2. The LEA must be “knowledgeable about the general  curriculum.”

      3. A certified school psychologist is required when evaluating a child for autism, emotional disturbance, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, other health impairment, specific learning disability and traumatic brain injury. This is not required for Early Intervention children.

    2. The IEP team, including regular educator, must review and revise the IEP to address “any lack of expected progress toward the annual goals and in the general curriculum.”

    3. If the state adopts a law affording the child, upon attaining the state-designated “age of majority,” the rights exercised until then by his or her parents under the IDEIA, the IEP team must notify the child of his or her rights beginning at least one year prior to that student’s attainment of the age of majority.

    4. For children who are deaf, the team must consider the child’s “language and communication mode” and must consider “opportunities” for “direct communication” with peers and adults and “direct instruction” in the child’s “language and communication mode.” This provision constitutes an explicit endorsement of the “deaf culturist” approach to deaf education and will render very difficult any attempt to support, against parent opposition, a program based on any of the other approaches, such as “total communication.”

  3. IEP Content: The IEP must contain the following:

    1. Statement of present educational levels explaining “how the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general curriculum.”

    2. Statement of “measurable annual goals” and “benchmarks or short-term objectives” must, among other things, “relate to meeting the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum.”

    3. Statement of special education (specially designed instruction or SDI) and related services to be provided for the following purposes:

      1. to “advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals” (is this intended to change the Rowley standard?);

      2. to enable the child “to be involved and progress in the general curriculum”;

      3. to enable the child “to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities.”

    4. Statement of individual modifications needed to enable the child to participate in “state or district-wide assessments of student achievement.”

    5. Statement of transition service needs mandated to begin at age 14, but limited until age 16, to “the applicable components of the child’s IEP that focuses on the child’s courses of study (such as participation in advanced-placement courses or a vocational education program).”

    6. If the state adopts a law affording the child, upon attaining the state-designated “age of majority,” any of the rights exercised until then by his or her parents under the IDEIA, a statement that the child was notified of his or her rights beginning at least one year prior to that student’s attainment of the age of majority.

    7. Statement of how parents will be informed, at least as often as parents of nondisabled students are informed, of

      1. progress toward annual goals; and

      2. the extent to which that rate of progress is sufficient to enable the child to attain annual goals by the end of the year. The failure to revise the IEP when the information provided to the parent indicates that the rate of progress is insufficient could result in liability to the District, under the reasoning of recent cases.

      3. The House Report provides a useful suggestion on this point as follows:

* * *

  • “One method recommended by the committee would be providing an IEP report card with the general education report card, if the latter is appropriate and provided for the child.

  • “An IEP Report card could also be made more useful by including checkboxes or equivalent options that enable the parents and the special educator to review and judge the performance of the child.”

  • “An example would be to state a goal or benchmark on the IEP report card and rank it on a multipoint continuum. The goal might be, ‘Ted will demonstrate effective literal comprehension.’ The ranking system would state the following, as indicated by a checkbox: No progress; some progress; good progress; almost complete; completed.”

We are available to speak to your organization or group on a variety of education and estate planning topics free of charge. We also sponsor free seminars throughout the year. For more information, click here, or call us at 215-830-5025.