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In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1990) established the essential obligation of special education law, which is to develop a student’s individualized special education program that enables them to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE was defined in the federal law as special education and related services that: (a) are provided at public expense, (b) meet the standards of the state education agency, (c) include preschool, elementary, or secondary education, and (d) are provided in conformity with a student’s individualized education program (IEP). Thus, the IEP is the blueprint of an individual student’s FAPE. The importance of FAPE has been shown in the number of disputes that have arisen over the issue. In fact 85% to 90% of all special education litigation involves disagreements over the FAPE that students receive. FAPE issues boil down to the process and content of a student’s IEP. In this article, we differentiate procedural (process) and substantive (content) violations and provide specific guidance on how to avoid both process and content errors when drafting and implementing students’ IEPs.


Laws, doi 10.3390/laws10020038