One of the most important but commonly misunderstood is FAPE. It stands for Free and Appropriate Public Education. FAPE is the foundation upon which public education in the United States is based. In the U.S. all children are legally guaranteed an education that is paid for by the public (free) and meets the child’s individual needs (appropriate) for meeting life as an adult. FAPE applies to all kids, at all public schools.
FAPE is often used in conversations with IDEA which stands for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In our country every child who qualifies for IDEA is guaranteed FAPE. This means that students with disabilities are legally guaranteed an education to prepare them as much as possible for college, employment and adult living. Disabilities recognized by IDEA include intellectual disability, impairments in orthopedics, speech, language, hearing, vision, or other health, emotional disturbance, autism, traumatic brain injury, deafness, blindness, learning disabilities.
Usually when discussing FAPE and IDEA, LRE comes up. LRE, least restrictive environment, refers the legal requirement that children with disabilities are educated with their non-disabled peers to as much as possible. Determining a student’s LRE is difficult sometimes. It is a difficult decision made by the student’s IEP team.
IEP stands for Individualized Educational Program. All students qualifying for special education services are legally required to be offered an IEP and a team to develop it. The team includes parents, general and special education teachers, and other school representatives such as administrators, school psychologist, or other experts who work together to make informed, educational decisions in the best interests of the child.
The IEP team discusses and determines the LRE of the individual qualifying for IDEA so he or she receives the education guaranteed by FAPE. I hope after reading this, you aren’t still asking, “What??”
Maryville R-II employs many individuals through its special education department. The high school has six special education instructors, middle school has five, and the elementary has seven. These individuals work in cooperation with a number of paraprofessionals, social workers, and therapists to help ALL students be successful.