Are you the parent of a child with a disability receiving special education services? Have you been fighting for your child to receive an appropriate education but are afraid that you are losing the battle. This article will be addressing the definition of FAPE as well as 8 parental reasons that may be contributing to your child not receiving a free appropriate public education.
Definition of FAPE
In a US Court of Appeals Case in the Third Circuit N.R. vs. Kingwood Township FAPE is defined as: a satisfactory IEP must provide significant learning and confer meaningful benefit. The definition of FAPE in IDEA 2004 states that FAPE means related and special education services that are free to the parent, and meet the standards of the State Educational Agency. Recently, many states have passed National Core Educational Standards to make the standards more uniform from state to state.
Possible Parental Causes
1. Some parents may not educate themselves about all of the federal and state laws that they can use to advocate for their child. These laws are: IDEA 2004, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, ADAAA, etc. It is critical that parents read books, and attend conferences to educate themselves.
2. Parents may be unwilling to confront or stand up to special education personnel who are refusing to provide FAPE to their child. This may be due to parents upbringing of not confronting authorities or educators
3. Schools have low expectations of what a child can learn in academic and functional areas. Parents must stand up to low expectations by some special education personnel, to the benefit of their child.
4. Not making sure that their child is held to the same educational standards as children without disabilities. If children do not learn academics and functional areas they could be hindered in their adult life.
5. Some parents may not learn appropriate remediation that their child needs to help them in their education.
6. Some parents may be unwilling to file a state complaint, 504 complaint, or file for a due process. As an advocate for over 20 years I have seen many school personnel draw a line in the sand, and absolutely refuse to listen to any parental input on services that their child needs. This situation requires going outside of the school district in the filing of complaints or due process, in a timely manner.
7. Some parents may accept lack of FAPE year after year without doing anything about it, even trying to find private services (and asking for school reimbursement). I recently read about a family in San Francisco that fought their school by filing for a due process hearing when the school district refused to provide their 3 year old child with Autism Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services, even though independent evaluators stated that the child needed this service. The parents did not wait year after year to let their child fail, they filed immediately. The family won after a 7 month fight, and was reimbursed for the private ABA services, that was given to their child.
8. Parents often approach school districts asking for the best services for their child. IDEA 2004 does not require that schools offer the best, but just related and special education services that are appropriate to meet the child’s educational needs.
How can parents turn this around? By educating themselves about special education law and research based remediation for their child. They also must be assertively persistent in their advocacy, for as long as it takes for their child to receive an appropriate education. Going outside the school district the first time they deny your child FAPE sends a message that you will not tolerate the civil rights violations to your child. Parents have a tough job, but if they work hard and advocate hard their child can receive an appropriate education.