Hope Springs Advocates

Do you know your child’s rights?
Free and Appropriate Public Education F.A.P.E.

F.A.P.E. is an acronym for Free and Appropriate Public Education. It is perhaps the most misunderstood concepts of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). It is quite often the chief source of conflict between parents and schools. FAPE is a required component of IDEA. FAPE mandates that schools must provide access to both general and specialized education services for students with disabilities. It also specifies that the student must receive as much instruction in a general education setting as is possible.

It has taken years for the courts to define what exactly FAPE is and is not. It is crucial that parents understand that FAPE is not an entitlement program that provides a better education to disabled children than it does to non-disabled students.


There are many myths that parents find themselves. Among them are the following:

  • Children with disabilities are not required to complete basic requirements for graduation.
  • Children with disabilities are not required to pass State approved assessments that demonstrate State standards.
  • Children with disabilities are to be provided a specialized school program that is chosen by the parents.
  • Children with disabilities are to be provided access to an education that is superior to that of non-disabled peers.


FAPE facts are:

  • Children with disabilities are provided modifications and accommodations.
  • Support services under their IEPs (Individual Education Plan) these allow them to have access to and benefit from instruction so they can meet the standards of the State Education Authority.
  • The program must comply with the requirements of IDEA.
  • The program must address the child’s individual educational needs as identified by evaluations and observation but the child’s educational team.
  • The program must provide an educational setting that insures the child’s continual progress in that setting.

The History of FAPE Prior to 1840 all education was privately funded and not available to the masses. Often times they were instituted by individual churches with their congregations. Shortly after, Common Schools were organized and the educational system in this country began. Horace Mann and Henry Barnard led a crusade to develop these common schools. Their goal was to provide opportunities for all children, and create common bonds among diverse populations. At that time the belief of most educators was that children with disabilities could not be educated.


By 1918 all states had some form of public education. In 1958 mandatory attendance policies were adopted. During this period, all educational services for children with hearing and vision disabilities were provided by either private tutors paid for by families, or the children were institutionalized in a state run facility. In 1965 there was a movement to correct the inequalities of education for persons who were economically disadvantaged and/or disabled. This led to the passing of Public Law (P.L.) 89-10; it was commonly referred to as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). From there it was reauthorize and title VI, was instituted as the Education of the Handicapped act. It was frequently referred to as Part B. Part B established grant programs for local districts to expand the development of programs and services for students with disabilities. At this time there wasn’t even any discussion of appropriate services or how and where services would be provided to children with disabilities. This was left up to the discretion of the local education authority.


In 1974 Congress addressed the “appropriate education for children with disabilities” by passing the education of the handicapped amendment and was then passed into bill (P.L. 94-142) The education for all handicapped children act mandated FAPE and ensured due process, IEPs, and LREs (Least Restrictive Environment). It required local educational authorities to provide local educational programs where the children could remain in their own homes with their families. Although they were provided with access to educational opportunities, children were still educated in two tracks; the children with disabilities on one and those without on the other. In 1990 the law was reauthorized and renamed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; IDEA. It provided access to general education to all children with disabilities by encouraging support and related services be provided to children in their general education settings as much as possible.


Who is entitled to FAPE? All persons with disabilities within the jurisdiction of a given school district are entitled to FAPE. The ED section of 504 regulation defines a person with a disability as “any person who:

  1. has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major areas of their life activities
  2. has a record of such impairment
  3. or is regarded as having such impairment. In general all school age children who are individuals with disabilities are entitled to 504, IDEA and FAPE."

How is an appropriate education defined? An appropriate education may be comprised of education in general education classrooms, general educations classrooms with special aids and services, in separate classrooms, or special education with related services in separate classrooms for some or all portions of the day. Special education may be accompanied by special services such as speech, physical, or occupational therapies, or psychological counseling, and medical diagnostic sevices necessary to the child’s education.

An appropriate education will include:

  • Educational services designed to meet the Individual Educational needs of each child with a disability as adequately as the needs of non-disabled children.
  • Evaluation and placement procedures established to guard against the mis-classification or inappropriate placement of students, and periodic reevaluation of students receiving services.

Establishment of due process of procedures that enable parents and guardians to:

  • receive required notices
  • review their child’s records
  • challenge identification, evaluation, and placement decisions


FAPE guarantees a free and appropriate public education to all children who have been evaluated and are found to have a disability significant enough to impede their success in a typical classroom. It guarantees an education equal to but not greater than that of non-disabled children. It mandates that students with disabilities are given an education in as much of a general education environment as is appropriate for each child. This education is to be in the least restrictive environment possible.


It does not exclude the child from completing state requirements for graduation or the taking of standardized tests required but the State Education authority. It does provide special modifications and accommodations for such tests. It also provides for such special services as speech, physical, and occupational therapies, and psychological evaluations. It mandates that an Individual Education Plan be instituted for the student with disabilities to ensure the maximum success for their education.


National Center for Learning Disabilities www.ncld.org

U.S. Department of Education www.2ed.gov

FAPE.org www.fape.org

Wrightslaw (special education law) www.wrightslaw.com

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