Education - IEP

History and Law

Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

The Individualized Education Program, commonly referred to as an IEP, is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law that governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. It addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities from birth to age 18 or 21.

IEP Process Illustration

Before IDEA of 1990, there was Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law designed to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Section 504 guarantees certain rights to individuals with disabilities, including the right to full participation and access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to all children regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.

Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE, is an educational right of children with disabilities in the United States that is guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under Section 504, FAPE is defined as “the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet individual needs of handicapped persons as well as the needs of non-handicapped persons are met and based on adherence to procedural safeguards outlined in the law.”

IEP - General Information

An IEP is meant to ensure that students receive an appropriate placement, not “only” special education classrooms or special schools. It is meant to give the student a chance to participate in “normal” school culture and academics as much as is possible for that individual student.

This vague statement leaves much to interpretation and can create problems. It’s best to know the law and keep a level head when advocating for your child’s education.

Private schools in the US are not governed by IDEA or 504 unless they accept funding from the US government.

Even if a child with a disability is suspended from school he/or she is to have their IEP executed.

An IEP is a constantly-changing document according to your child’s needs and goals. Nothing is set in stone.

The student should be present at each IEP meeting.

Useful Links

Federal/National Sites

Virginia Sites

IEP Resources

  1. Wrightslaw – Parents, educators, advocates, and attorneys come to Wrightslaw for accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities!
  2. What’s the difference between a 504 plan and an IEP?
  3. Book – “When the School Says No, How to Get the Yes!: Securing Special Education for Your Child” – Written by a Virginia parent advocate.
  4. The Center for Family Involvement
  5. disAbility Law Center of Virginia
  6. PELE – William & Mary Law School – Special Education Advocacy Clinic
  7. Center for Parent Information and Resources
  8. National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
  9. Affordable Colleges Online – College Resources for Students with Disabilities
  10. Accredited Schools Online – Helping Students with Visual Impairments
  11. Little Things Mean a lot: Supports Outside of Virginia Waivers – by Elsie Gladding
  12. Including Me in Virginia

IEP Terms to Know

  1. Prior Written Notice – IDEA also emphasizes the importance of your active participation in making decisions about your child’s special education. Before the school district proposes or refuses an action related to the education plan for your child, they must provide you with a Prior Written Notice.
  2. Stay Put – If a parent and school district disagree about a student’s current special education program, the district cannot make changes to that program without the parent’s consent.
  3. IEE – An Independent Educational Evaluation must be provided at the public school’s expense. If a parent requests an IEE, the School District must either say yes or take the parents to due process and explain to a hearing officer why the assessments the school provided were adequate.
  4. FBA – A Functional Behavioral Assessment is important because it helps define a student’s problem behaviors. It finds out when and where the behaviors happen and why. This allows the student’s IEP team to come up with positive ways to deal with, reduce, or eliminate them.
  5. MDR – When a child with a disability engages in behavior or breaks a code of conduct and the school proposes to remove the child, the school must hold a hearing to determine if the child’s behavior was caused by his disability. This hearing, a Manifestation Determination Review, is a process to review all relevant information and the relationship between the child’s disability and the behavior.
  6. LRE – Least Restrictive Environment. LRE is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA says that children who receive special education should learn in the least restrictive environment. This means they should spend as much time as possible with peers who do not receive special education.


  1. You do not have to sign the IEP at the meeting.
  2. You may audio record the meeting w/24 hr notice.
  3. DON’T GO ALONE!!!

Some Things to Think About

Do you want your child to start the climb up the never ending special services ladder? The one ever growing ladder that leads to segregation and dependency? If your child starts in special preschool they’re most likely never to be included in a regular classroom. It’s very hard to step off the ladder. Long term goals for adult life need to be set in IEPs early as possible. Think about these goals when creating an IEP with disabilities: Preparation for employment, or college, or independent living.

If the child with a disability is included in regular classes, special accommodations do not mean freebies or a free pass to a diploma. Make sure you know what your child will be earning upon graduation, a standard, advanced, modified, or a applied studies diploma.

These goals should be thought about in each IEP meeting:

  1. Preparation for Employment (our Employment Resource Page)
  2. College
  3. Independent Living
“Inclusion does not mean fitting students with special needs into regular schools. Inclusion means creating schools where everyone fits.” — Dr. Marti Snell