Basics about your child’s rights

At a Glance: Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

By Patricia H. Latham

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that each child who has a disability and needs special education and related services will receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Here’s a closer look at FAPE.

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At a Glance: Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

FAPE stands for free and appropriate public education. It’s one of the most important legal terms for you to know. Learn the details behind this powerful acronym.

F is for free. Free means that all eligible students with disabilities will be educated at public expense. There is no cost to you, the parent. You do, however, have to pay the same incidental fees (such as membership fees for clubs) as for general education students.

A is for appropriate. Appropriate means that your child with a disability is entitled to an education that is appropriate for her. It will be tailored and planned to meet her needs as stated in her Individualized Education Program (IEP).

P is for public. Public refers to the public school system. Children with disabilities, whatever the nature or severity of their disabilities, have the right to be educated under public supervision. (Many children will be educated in the public school. In some cases, they might be educated in a private school.)

E is for education. Education must be provided to every eligible school-age child with a disability. If this describes your child, FAPE ensures that she’ll receive a public education that includes the services outlined in her Individualized Education Program (IEP). The education should prepare your child for the future—further education, employment and independent living.
Graphic of At a Glance: Free and appropriate public education (FAPE)
Graphic of At a Glance: Free and appropriate public education (FAPE)

FAPE is one of the most important legal terms to know if your child has a disability. But there are some common misconceptions about FAPE. See a list of what is and isn’t required by FAPE.

About the Author

Pat Latham

Patricia H. Latham

Patricia Horan Latham, J.D., is an attorney and mediator and the coauthor of eight books on disability and the law.

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