Students With Disabilities and the Law: Important Liability Issues

For students with disabilities and their families, the federal government ensures certain rights through a number of laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This act, similar to others like it, is an example of special education law because it guides how states and public agencies provide early intervention and related services to students with disabilities.

It’s important for local school boards and schools to know about special education laws and how they are meant to protect students and their families. The goals here are to provide students with the best education while also looking to avoid major liabilities and even legal problems for a board.

Here’s a closer look at some special education laws and the role of students, their families, and school boards.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and FAPE

IDEA is at the crux of special education law. The major purpose of IDEA is to guarantee that students with disabilities have an education that prepares them for further education, independent living, and employment late down the road. Known as FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education), this guarantees those disabled children aged three to 21 receive educational programs that are individualized to the specific child.

If schools fail to meet these needs, they can find themselves at the center of their own unique legal matter. Schools need to adhere to these laws and be sure to provide their students with their legally mandated specialized education needs.

FAPE is in the middle of special education and provides services at no cost to the students’ families. The education that these students receive must be appropriate in that it allows the student to make progress in their curriculum and is outlined so that a student’s individual’s needs are met. FAPE also means that the public education entity is responsible for educating students within its boundaries. When a district is unable to provide a free and appropriate public education system for students, it is responsible for covering the cost for a student to receive that education and training in a different setting.

Individualized Education Plan

Every child who requires and qualifies for special education is assigned an Individual Education Program, or an IEP. It does specify services that need to be provided to a student and how often they need to meet to go over their levels of progress and performance.

An IEP must include a design that meets the child’s special individual needs. When a child qualifies for special education services, a school board must put together an IEP team to develop a detailed written description. The IEP team has to meet at least once a year to reevaluate the student. An IEP team must include at least one of the student’s regular classroom teachers, a special education teacher, a representative of the local education agency, and those with knowledge or expertise regarding the student.

Together, this IEP can help parents understand where their student is in their development and help to see what updates need to be made.

About PGUI

Professional Governmental Underwriters, Inc., is a full-service risk management company dedicated to assisting public, educational and non-profit entities in the management of their professional liability exposures including educators liability insurance. We are dedicated to providing state-of-the-art professional underwriting management and loss control advisory services on behalf of our designated carriers. For more information, call us toll-free at (800) 586-6502.