Special Education Law
Question and Answer
If you have a questions involving special education law that you would like answered on this blog, please email it to us via the contact page. Remember, the material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only, it is in no way meant to be taken as legal advice.
FAPE is an acronym for a free and appropriate public education. FAPE is guaranteed to students under federal law through the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. “What is FAPE” is often times at the center of controversy and litigation between school districts and families. While a district may believe that they are providing an appropriate education, or a FAPE, a parent may not see it as such. When there is a potential denial of FAPE, and parents that the district can not work it out on their own, parents may consider exercising their educational due process rights and letting a hearing officer determine if in fact an appropriate education has been provided. A parent may go through the due process proceedings pro se (without an attorney) or they may consider hiring a special education attorney to assist them through the process. As parents, it is important to remember, that IDEA entitles children to an appropriate education, not the best education. What is appropriate? That is the subject of another Q&A.
How far back is a school liable for not providing my child with an appropriate education? Are there exceptions to the statute of limitations in IDEA?
For the most part the answer is two (2) years. There are exceptions to the statute of limitations in special education law, but as the law stands there are few fact patterns that rise to a level that would pierce the statute and allow for claims beyond the two-year window. For there to be even a chance that you could have a claim past the two-year timeframe you must show that either:
- The school made specific misrepresentations that they resolved the problems that are now the basis of the complaint or
- That they withheld information that they should have provided to the parents
As the case law currently stands, this has to be far more than just an accidental withholding of information. Note that the time period could vary state by state, so check with a local attorney to be certain. Regardless, time is always critical in legal matters so it is best to seek advice sooner rather than later.
Since IDEA is Federal Law, for the most part the rules in PA and NJ are the same. There are however subtle differences. To better explain the difference we have put them into a chart format, comparing Pennsylvania and New Jersey side by side. The biggest difference between the two states is that in PA there is an exception to the ticking of the clock during the summer, while in NJ, the clock still tolls during summer break. Click here to download the comparison chart as a PDF → Initial Evaluation Timelines PA v. NJ
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