Key IEP Law Summary

Jeffrey A. Gottlieb – Special Needs Attorney

  • The purpose of the IEP is “ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.” [ 20 U.S.C. 1400 (d) (1) (A)] This is helpful information when a parent is advocating for a particular placement or service.
  • The IEP is a legally enforceable document (analogous to a contract).
  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) means special education and related services that are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction and without charge and are provided in conformity with the IEP. [20 U.S.C Section 1401 (3)(B) (9)]
  • In general, the term “child with a disability” means a child with either mental retardation (including deafness) speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments or specific learning disability, and who require special education and related services. [20 U.S.C Section 1401 (3)(A)]
  • The law favors a special education child being placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The factors to consider include: benefiting academically in a mainstream classroom, benefiting non-academically (e.g. social interaction), whether the child is overly disruptive and whether mainstreaming is unduly expensive. [Sacramento City School District v. Rachel H., 14F3d 1398 (9th Cir. 1994)]
  • If there is a dispute regarding an IEP and the matter is brought before an administrative hearing and the parent prevails, then the administrative court may award attorney fees to the parent. [20U.S.C. 1415 (B)(i)]
  • A school district has a legal requirement to assess a disabled child in all areas related to a suspected disability. [Cal Ed. Code Sec. 56320(f)]
  • A school district must provide parents with advanced notice of an IEP meeting date and time. The IEP meeting must be scheduled at a mutually agreeable time. [34 C.F.R Sec. 300.345 (a)(b); Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56341.5(e)]
  • A parent/representative must provide a school district with 24 hours written notice that it will be recording an IEP meeting [California Ed. Code Section 56341(g)(ii)].
  • The IEP team must be comprised of a parent, a general education teacher (if the child is in or may be in a general education setting), a special education teacher, a school district representative, an individual who conducted an assessment, and individual(s) invited by a parent where those individuals have knowledge of the child. Additionally, a parent can bring an advocate with them to the IEP meeting. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.321]
  • A school district must provide parents with a copy of all school records within five calendar days from the date a request is made by a parent. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56504]
  • A parent’s written consent is required before a school district can assess a child. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56321]
  • Upon request, a school district is required to provide copies of assessments to a parent prior to an IEP meeting. [C.F.R. Sec. 300.613].
  • Under some circumstances, a parent can be reimbursed for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), at the school district’s expense (e.g., parent disagrees with school district assessment and parent litigates for reimbursement on the basis that either the district’s assessment was defective or the district waited too long to act on parent request.).[ 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.502(a) (1,2)]
  • Generally, school districts are only liable for developing a FAPE offer based on what was known or should have been known at the time of the FAPE offer (“Snapshot Rule”), [Adams v. Oregon, 195 F.3d 1141 (9th Cir. 1999)]

The preceeding are summaries of case and statutory special education law applicable to California. Laws and statutory cites are subject to change. Specific and unique circumstances may warrant review of a case by an attorney.

For more information regarding special education legal matters go to:

Scroll to Top