Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in New Jersey
Federal law requires that all students receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). When students have special or unique needs that impact their ability to learn in the general education environment, New Jersey schools must furnish students with services and other supports — at public cost — to help the student make educational progress.
Are you concerned that the education and services offered by your child’s school are inadequate? Contact Susan Clark Law Group LLC today for a free case review. Our experienced New Jersey special education lawyers will review your case and take swift action to help enforce your child’s rights.
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What Is a Free Appropriate Public Education?
A free appropriate public education (FAPE) refers to the standard of education that all students are entitled to by New Jersey law and under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). All eligible students between the ages of three and 21 are entitled to receive a program of special education services and other supports to help them learn in the least restrictive environment possible.
These special education and related services are outlined in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) uniquely crafted for each student based on their needs, following a consultation among school officials, experts, and the student’s parents or guardians.
Services outlined in an IEP must be provided at public expense and under the overall supervision of the public school district. Parents or guardians cannot be charged for the services provided to a student under an IEP.
What Does FAPE Cover?
A FAPE means that school districts must provide students with educational services that enable each student to make academic progress. FAPE can require school districts to:
- Provide special education services designed to meet a student’s individual needs. These services may include tutoring or specialized instruction.
- Provide related services that will ensure a student benefits from their instruction. For example, students may be provided transportation to and from school or specialized educational centers. Students might also be provided with physical/occupational/speech therapy or counseling services.
- Offer equal opportunities to participate in extracurricular programs offered by the school.
- Provide special education and related services in the least restrictive environment possible. This means that students should be learning alongside other students not receiving specialized services. Placement in separate classes or schools should only be pursued when necessary to ensure students make educational progress.
FAPE does not entitle a student or their family to services designed to maximize achievement or potential. Although families participate in crafting an IEP for their child, FAPE does not cover the family’s choice of specific services or educational programs. The services designated by an IEP will be selected by the IEP team as a whole, which includes school administrators and experts.
What Rights Does FAPE Give to Students with Disabilities?
A student has a disability that entitles them to the protections of IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act when they:
- Have a mental or physical impairment that significantly limits major life activities and;
- The impairment has been documented, or;
- The student is known to have the impairment.
Students are entitled to FAPE beginning at age three, continuing until they reach age 21 or complete their high school diploma, whichever occurs first.
FAPE gives students with disabilities the right to:
- An appropriate preschool, primary, and secondary education
- Equal access to the educational services offered by the student’s home school district
- Education in the least restrictive environment, which may require the provision of services, technology, or other assistance that allows a student to learn in the general education environment
- The provision of regular special education and related services under an IEP reasonably aimed at ensuring that the individual educational needs of a student with disabilities are met to the same degree as the educational needs of students without disabilities
- The furnishing of such services at the school district’s expense and under the district’s supervision and direction
My Child Isn’t Getting a FAPE – Now What?
If you believe that your child isn’t receiving a FAPE and requires services due to disabilities or other special needs, you can take steps to determine whether your child may have rights under IDEA or Section 504.
- First, you should submit a written request to your school district’s department of special education services to evaluate your child. The school district child study team will conduct a preliminary screening of your child to determine if a full evaluation is necessary. If the evaluation determines that your child is eligible for special education services, you and the school district will develop an IEP for your child.
- If your request for an evaluation is denied, you disagree with the provisions of an IEP, or if you believe that the school district isn’t following the terms of your child’s IEP, you can file a request for mediation, which is conducted by the state education department’s Office of Special Education Programs.
- If mediation fails or, instead of requesting mediation, you can also file a petition for a due process hearing. The hearing involves a trial-like proceeding conducted before an administrative law judge, who will issue a ruling on the dispute.
If the administrative process fails to resolve your concerns that your child is not receiving a FAPE, you may be required to turn to the courts to seek legal relief.
How Can Susan Clark Law Group LLC Help Me?
If your family is facing difficulties ensuring that your child is receiving a free appropriate public education in New Jersey, Susan Clark Law Group LLC can help by:
- Utilizing our law firm’s 100+ years of combined legal experience in special education law to help your family understand what options you have to protect your child’s rights
- Taking the time to get to know you and your family and your child so that we can tailor a legal strategy aimed at ensuring they get the support they need to learn and thrive
- Fighting for your family’s rights and interests in court, if necessary, so that your child gets the education and support they are legally entitled to receive
If you believe that your child is not receiving a free appropriate public education, let the Freehold, NJ special education lawyers at Susan Clark Law Group LLC stand up for you. Call us today for a free consultation.