I've read that children are not automatically entitled to attend their neighborhood school, even under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Is this true? Are there any initiatives being considered to make public schools more universally inclusive of special education students?


Gina Badalaty, Parent of 2 kids with disabilities, Professional Blogger

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For the answers to these questions, I'm going to refer to some articles over at Wrightslaw.com, which is a website that specializes in providing information about special eduction law and advocacy for children with disabilities. According to Wrightslaw, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act f 20014 (IDEA) requires "school districts to place students in the least restrictive environment (LRE)." School districts are required to instruct students with disabilities with appropriate aid, services and support alongside students in the school they would attend if they did not have a disability, unless the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) states differently.

Now, the IDEA does not apply to private schools. This only applies to public school. The law is in place to ensure that every child with a disability in the U.S. has a right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Any state that receives funding under the IDEA "must make a free appropriate public education available to eligible children with disabilities." The law also requires that all special instruction required be provided "at no cost to the parents."

Speaking as a mom who has 2 children on IEP for several years, I can tell you that some schools with do all kinds of things to discourage your child from attending, but any public school cannot block a child from attendance. We have seen schools employ everything from "kind" discussions on why our kids would not thrive there to outright deception regarding the delivery of services outlined in our IEP.

As time has gone on, our current school has gotten far more adept at integrating our children into an LRE that they are thriving in - that is, keeping up with their grade level as far as possible. The problem is that many states now face severe fiscal burden, particularly in education. The education blog, EdCentral.com, states that Part B of the IDEA "authorizes grants to state and local education agencies to offset part of the costs of the K-12 education needs of children with disabilities; it also authorizes preschool state grants." However, there are limits to the funding of IDEA and that's where schools can struggle.

That said, schools do need to pay attention. In July, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice found that the state of "Georgia discriminates against students with disabilities by segregating them from other students." (SPLCenter.com) States need to hold up this agreement or can find themselves in grave trouble from the DOJ.

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