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Your child’s rights (IDEA) (with Tennessee resources)

What Is IDEA?


To understand your child’s rights in America’s public schools, it helps to start with one of the primary laws governing the education of children with disabilities: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-446). IDEA is a federal law that guarantees a free and appropriate public education for every child with a disability.

This means that if you enroll your child in public school, his/her education should be at no cost to you and should be appropriate for his/her age, ability and developmental level.

IDEA is an amended version of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142), passed in 1975. In 2004, IDEA was reauthorized (P.L. 108-446), further defining children’s rights to educational services and strengthening the role of parents in the educational planning process for their children.

Getting a Copy of IDEA

Copies of the IDEA law and/or regulations are available from the Government Printing Office or may be available at your public library.  Your state senator may also be able to provide you with a copy.  Or you can visit the Web site of the Families and Advocates Partnership for Education (FAPE) project, run by the PACER Center and funded by the U.S. Department of Education or the IDEA Partnerships Web site for information on the law and its regulations.

IDEA has both statutes and regulations.  The IDEA statute is the governing legislation – the language of the law – and the regulations are an explanation of how the law is to be enacted.  The law explains what conditions exist; the regulations explain how these conditions are applied.

No Child Left Behind

The No Child Left Behind Act was designed to give all students – including those with  disabilities – the opportunity to have an appropriate, high-quality education.  It does this by creating a state-by-state accountability system.  For students with disabilities, the law requires that their academic progress be measured and reported.  As a result, parents of children with disabilities can learn how their children, as a category of students, are achieving compared to their non-disabled peers.  While NCLB has many challenges, it has been positive for students with disabilities because children whose progress is measured get taught.

Other Laws

Two other laws governing the educational rights of students with disabilities are the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-380), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, (P.L. 93-112).

In brief, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of a student’s educational records and outlines inspection and release of information. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects the civil rights of persons with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination against a person with a disability by an agency receiving federal funds.  

General Legal Resources
Congressional Email 
Department of Justice 
IDEA 
Section 504 Overview 
Section 504 Summary 
Legal Resource 

Local Legal and/or Advocacy Resources

Davidson County
Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee, Inc. 
2416 21st Avenue South 
Nashville, TN  37212 
Toll Free Phone:  800-342-1660
Phone:  615-298-1080
TTY:  888-852-2852 
FAX:  615-298-2046 
Email:  GetHelp@DLACTN.org

The Arc of Davidson County
111 North Wilson Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37205
Phone:  615-321-5699
Email: arc@arcdc.org 

Legal Aid Society 
Phone: 615-244-6610 

Hamilton County 
The Arc of Hamilton County 
4613 Brainerd 
Chattanooga, TN  36411
Phone:  423-624-6887 
Fax:  423-624-3974 
Email:  TheArcofHamilton@inbox.com

Knox County 
Tennessee Voices For Children 
Phone: 865-609-2490 
Fax: 865-609-2490 

Madison County 
Tennessee Voices For Children 
Phone: 731-984-8599
Fax: 731-984-8575

Shelby County 
The Arc of the Mid-South
3485 Poplar Avenue, Suite 210 
Memphis, TN  38111 
Phone:  901-327-2473 
Fax: 901-327-2687 
Email: msarc@arcmidsouth.net

Washington County 
The Arc of Washington County
Bill Schiers, Executive Director 
2700 South Roan Street, Suite 300 B 
Johnson City, TN 37601
Phone:  423-928-9362
Fax:  423-928-7431 
Email:  kim@arcwc.org

Williamson County 
The Arc of Williamson County
Sharon Bottorff, Executive Director 
129 W. Fowlkes Street, Suite 151 
Franklin, TN 37064
Phone:  615-790-5815
Fax: 615-790-5891 

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