The federal and state laws governing the rights of students with disabilities can seem overwhelming and complex at first; however, understanding the special education process and knowing how to utilize the laws as they were meant to be utilized is important in achieving educational success. While education in and of itself is an important component in the life of a student with learning disabilities, it is the purpose of the education and the eventual outcome that needs to be remembered . . . developing the tools to lead a productive, independent, and fulfilling life.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, commonly referred to as the IDEA, is the federal law governing special education. Chapter 14 of the PA School Code is the state regulation mirroring the IDEA. Although state regulations and laws do not override federal law, Chapter 14 can provide protections above and beyond what the IDEA mandates. To be eligible for special education services and programs, a student must be evaluated and found to be a student with one or more of the 13 disabilities noted in the IDEA and be in need of special education programs and related services.
The Rehabiliation Act of 1973 is a federal, civil rights law. Section 504 of the "Rehab Act" provides accommodations to students who have been deemed students with a handicapping condition. Chapter 15 of the PA School Code addresses the rights afforded under the Rehabilitation Act. Students receiving protection under this Act are provided a 504 service agreement.