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Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

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If you have a child with a disability, your child is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). This page has Qs & As, articles, law, cases, books, and other resources about FAPE.

You should also review information about these topics: IEPs, Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), Extended School Year (ESY), Evaluations & Tests, and Retention & Social Promotion. Also, visit the main topics page.

Qs & As

Who is Responsible for Providing FAPE? In this article, you will learn about the "free, appropriate public education " (FAPE) your child is entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, who is responsible for providing a free, appropriate public education and how it is delivered. You will also learn strategies you can use if you have a disagreement with your child's IEP team.

How Can I Get the School to Provide an Appropriate Program? Read one parent's journey from emotion to advocacy as she lobbies for the services her son needs.

High-Stakes! Can the School Use a Single Test to Retain My Child?

Should I Allow the School Retain My Child? Advice to a parent's frequently asked questions about retention - generally, it is not a good idea.

To Promote or Retain? Summary of research on retention which shows that retention is not an appropriate intervention for children who have academic delays.

Homebound Services: Two Hours a Week = FAPE? The IEP controls the services, regardless of where they are delivered - at home or in the public school

When a School Refuses to Protect a Child with Life-Threatening Allergies. A complaint filed alleging that the child on the basis of her disabilities, was denied a free and appropriate public education that addressed her needs, and failed to ensure a safe educational environment.

Individualized Instruction is Not One-Size-Fits All. You are right. A program the school considers “good”may not be adequate for every child, depending on the child’s needs.The bottom line is the child has a right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

What Does "swine flu" Have to do with FAPE? Guidance from US Dept of Education addresses the obligations of, and best practices for, state agencies and local schools with regard to the requirements for providing FAPE for children with disabilities when planning for an H1N1 outbreak.

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Articles about FAPE

Accommodations and Modifications. Some children with disabilities need accommodations and modifications in their special education programs. This 4 page printer-friendly article defines accommodations and modifications and gives examples for books, curriculum, instruction, assignments, and behavior.

Free Appropriate Public Education for Students with Disabilities: Requirements Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. (Rev. September 2007). This pamphlet answers the following questions about FAPE: Who is entitled to a free appropriate public education? How is an appropriate education defined? How is a free education defined?

Evans v. Rhinebeck: Your Roadmap to FAPE. How do judges determine if a child is receiving FAPE? Learn about procedural and substantive issues, educational benefit, and how to use test scores to show educational benefit.

FAPE? Ohio Child Entitled to an Education That is Appropriate -- and Free. What is FAPE? Court of Appeals says child entitled to appropriate education that is also free; orders district to reimburse parents for child's tuition at private school.

Garret F: Congress Intended to Open Door to All Qualified Children. U. S. Supreme Court decision clarifies that schools must provide related services when necessary for children to attend school.

IDEA Requirements: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) & FAPE. The IDEA includes two fundamental requirements: that the child receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). What does least restrictive environment mean? What is mainstreaming?

Loving Parents Want What's Best for Child - But Schools Only Need to Provide FAPE. Learn why you cannot use words like "best" or "maximizing potential" in discussions with school staff; article includes Four Rules About FAPE.

Reexamining Rowley: A New Focus in Special Education Law. Attorney Scott Johnson argues that the "some educational benefit" standard in Rowley no longer reflects the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. State standards and educational adequacy requirements provide requirements of FAPE; these standards exceed the "some educational benefit" benchmark. This requires a fundamental change in how courts, school districts, and parents view special education services.

Unilateral Graduation & Compensatory Education: Kevin T. v. Elmhurst. Court finds that school district did not provide a FAPE, attempted to unilaterally graduate child, orders compensatory education.

Tests and Measurements for the Parent, Teacher, Advocate & Attorney. Because FAPE describes a program that is designed to meet the child's unique needs and from which the child receives educational benefit, you need to understand test scores and what your child's test scores mean.  

The Untold Story - Florence County School District IV v. Shannon Carter. The inside story of the Shannon Carter case from due process, appeals, to oral argument before the U. S. Supreme Court.

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From Emotions to Advocacy - The Special Education Survival Guide

Our advocacy book, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy - The Special Education Survival Guide, 2nd Edition , is published by Harbor House Law Press. Use the links below to preview the book. To order



Legal Definition of FAPE

The legal concept of “FAPE” is shorthand for “free, appropriate public education.” You will find FAPE defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) at 20 U. S. C. § 1401(3)(A)(9) (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 51) and in the Code of Federal Regulations at 34 C.F.R. § 300.17 (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 196).

In a nutshell, FAPE is an individualized educational program that is designed to meet the child's unique needs and from which the child receives educational benefit, and prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living.

How can you tell if your child is receiving educational benefit? If you compare the child's educational achievement test scores over time, you will know if your child is receiving educational benefit.

For more information about educational benefit and test results, download, print and study Tests and Measurements for the Parent, Teacher, Advocate and Attorney.

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Caselaw About FAPE
(more caselaw about FAPE & IEPs)

Bd. Ed. Hendrick Hudson Sch. Dist. v. Amy Rowley The first special education decision from the U. S. Supreme Court in 1982 defines FAPE.

Cleveland Heights-University Heights v. Sommer Boss (6th Cir. 1998). School ignores red flags, does not offer an IEP, child placed in private school, parents entitled to reimbursement.

Evans v. Rhinebeck (S.D. NY 1996). Learn about FAPE for child with dyslexia; substantive and procedural issues, educational benefit. Includes excellent discussion of IEP goals and objectives.

Kevin T. v. Elmhurst Comm. School Dist. (N.D. IL 2002) Witness credibility, failure to review and revise IEP goals and objectives, regression of skills, assistive technology, statewide assessments, transition plans, unilateral graduation, and compensatory education as a remedy when a school district fails to provide a FAPE.

T. R. v. Kingwood Township (NJ) (3rd Cir. 2000) Clarifies requirement to provide a "free appropriate education (FAPE)" in the "least restrictive environment, meaningful benefit, continuum of placements.

Walczak v. Florida Union Free School Dist. (2nd Cir. 1998). Loving parents want what's best for child but school need only provide an appropriate education.

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Books about Special Education Law, NCLB & Advocacy

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition (ISBN 978-1-892320-16-2) by Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright is published by Harbor House Law Press, Inc.
Available as a print book/e-book combo.

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy - The Special Education Survival Guide (ISBN 978-1-892320-09-4) by Pam and Pete Wright is published by Harbor House Law Press. The book is supplemented by the From Emotions to Advocacy website.

Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) by Peter W. D. Wright, Pamela Darr Wright and Suzanne Whitney Heath is published by Harbor House Law Press; includes the No Child Left Behind CD-ROM.

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Last updated: 06/24/10

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Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright
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Wrightslaw: All About IEPs
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Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments
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Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board
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