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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

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The Office of Special Education Programs in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services of the U.S. Department of Education administers the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), P.L. 101-476. The IDEA and its individualized education program (IEP) provisions do not apply to postsecondary schools. However, since it guided your educational services throughout your K-12 education, you may want to understand how the IDEA differs from the Title II of the ADA and Section 504.

The IDEA directs federal financial assistance to state and local education agencies to guarantee that school systems provide to eligible students with disabilities a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment with special education and related aides and services as needed. The law governs the education of students with disabilities from preschool through high school completion or until the student reaches his or her twenty second birthday.

[Note: Section 8 VAC 20-131-50 of Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia (8 VAC 20-131-10 et. seq.) sets forth the requirements for the Standard, Advanced Studies, and Modified Standard Diplomas and is available at www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/ForStudents/grad-req.shtml

The IDEA requires the development and annual review of an IEP for each eligible student. Under the IDEA, service provision is the responsibility of the school. A multi-disciplinary team determines the student's eligibility to receive special education and related services and develops the IEP with the participation of the student, if appropriate, and his or her parents or legal guardian(s). The IDEA defines children with disabilities as those -

With mental retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness'), serious emotional disturbance (hereinafter referred to as 'emotional disturbance'), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities . . . who, by reason thereof, need special education and related services. [p.20 U.S.C. § 1403(a)(I)]

The current legal provisions regarding special education in Virginia, modeled after IDEA, are contained in the Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia (8 VAC 20-80-10 et seq.) and the Code of Virginia available at www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Instruction/Sped/spfedregs.html.

When an individual with a disability completes his or her secondary education, the IDEA no longer applies. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Virginians with Disabilities Act do apply. "Entitlements to services and rights against discrimination" are the major tenets of these federal and state laws (Turnbull & Turnbull, 2000, p. 59). Programs and services include recruitment, admissions, financial aid, housing, transportation, extracurricular activities, student employment, etc. Programs and services, not necessarily facilities, must be accessible. Institutions covered by these laws are required to provide appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services to ensure that students with disabilities have the access needed to enjoy the full benefits of a college experience.


For more information on IDEA, contact your local school division, the Virginia Department of Education available at www.pen.k12.va.us or IDEAPractices available at www.ideapractices.org/index.php.

Excerpted from Virginia's College Guide for Students with Disabilities (2003 Edition).