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Free Appropriate Public Education

Free Appropriate Public Education


Free Appropriate Public Education applies to students with disabilities, and the free education is required by Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Free Appropriate Public Education is defined in its most simple definition the following way: programs receiving federal funding are required to provide education and services to students with disabilities free of charge. 


This applies to the parents or guardians of the disabled student as well. 


Section 504 of the Act defines qualified persons as “any person who: (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment.” 


A person is required to receive free appropriate public education in an elementary or secondary education program if:

·         the disabled person’s age entitles them to free education as required by the state

·         the disabled person is the same age as others without disabilities receiving similar services, OR

·         the disabled person is entitled to receive free education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)


Free appropriate public education applies to both regular classes and special education.  The education is deemed as appropriate if:

·         the education meets the educational needs of the disabled student equally as much as the nondisabled student’s educational needs are met

·         the education puts in place evaluations and procedures that protect the disabled student from a misinformed placement and makes sure reevaluations are provided periodically as well

·         the education lets the parents and guardians receives notices, review the records of the child, and challenge decisions on evaluations and placements as well


It has already been established that free appropriate public education must meet the complete educational needs of the disabled child.  The needs address inclusion in the classroom.  For example, if a student is deaf or blind, the school must provide aids that can act as interpreters for the deaf student or readers for the blind student.  Additionally, the school is required to let the disabled student participate in meals, physical education, and recess with nondisabled students. 


The school can only deny the use of aids if the needs of the disabled student cannot be met in an inclusive classroom even with the assistance of aids.


If a school receives federal funding and is still unable to provide free appropriate public education to the disabled student, they are responsible for placing the student in another program that can provide free education.  In such a case, the funded school is responsible for services like room and board, medical services, and transportation costs. 


Furthermore, if a funded public school cannot provide an appropriate program and needs to place the disabled student in a private school that can provide appropriate programs, the public school is responsible for all financial obligations associated with the private school.  The funded public school is only alleviated of financial responsibility associated with the private school if the public school could provide an appropriate program but the parents or guardians chose to enroll the child at the private school anyway.