Special Education and the Law – A Brief Overview

Federal and state laws remain in effect during the pandemic

Parents who have concerns about a child’s access to special education services can contact us to speak with an attorney free of charge.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA is a broad civil rights law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination in a wide range of settings including public and private (but not religious) schools. Although the ADA does not have provisions specifically related to education, parents, students, staff, and visitors with qualifying disabilities can request accommodations under the ADA in order to have equal access to school activities. For example, schools must be physically accessible, and provide interpreters and accessible materials for those who are deaf or vision impaired.
For more information visit:  ADA Q&A: Back to School (Pacer Center)
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) & Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA  as well as New Hampshire state law require school districts to provide special education and related services for children with certain types of disabilities who, due to their disability, need specialized instruction and related services to receive an appropriate education. Under these laws, school districts must make a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) available to eligible children until they are awarded a regular high school diploma or turn twenty-one, whichever comes first. Children who are eligible under IDEA receive specialized instruction and related services that are outlined in an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is developed by the student’s IEP Team which includes the child and their parents or guardian.

Children with disabilities who do not qualify for special education but need accommodations or modifications to receive an appropriate education may be entitled to what is known as a “504 Plan.”  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance including public preschools, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.


Disability Rights Center – New Hampshire is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers for people with disabilities across New Hampshire. DRC is the federally designated protection and advocacy agency for New Hampshire and has authority under federal law to conduct investigations in cases of probable abuse or neglect.

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