Navigating and Understanding Special Education Law

Navigating and Understanding Special Education Law

IEPs and Section 504 Plans legally ensure that all students are treated fairly within their educational institutions. While both programs assist students with disabilities, not all disabled students require special instruction. IEPs are individualized education plans that ensure a child with a disability attending a K-12 school, as identified under the law, is receiving specialized instruction and related services. A Section 504 Plan covers students attending a K-12 school who need accommodations to support their academic success in an appropriate learning environment. Though similar, IEPs and Section 504 plans cover subtle differences to meet the student’s specific needs. Students with a 504 Plan do not need specialized instruction, but educators must update this plan regularly to protect their students' rights. 

Whether you are only briefly acquainted with each program’s requirements or more directly involved in the implementation process, these essential documents must be understood because of legal ramifications if not followed properly. However, many teachers are not familiar with the terms or processes of special education law or these services. With push-in services, creating the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for students, and inclusive education, more and more general education teachers instruct students with IEPs or other special services related to their unique needs and disabilities. Teaching students with special needs is rewarding, but adhering to these documents' legally binding requirements can sometimes be a daunting and overwhelming task.

How do you know your legal responsibilities, and more importantly, how can you ensure that all your students reach their maximum potential? Laws are continuously changed and enacted, which means the savvy teacher and school administrator must be on their A-game!


Why Is It Important to Learn About Special Education Law?

As seen in many court cases over the years, not all schools are appropriately ready to teach students with IEPs or other supporting services. As a result, these schools and educators ended up suffering legal consequences. But it isn't just the schools that suffered. Students are now negatively impacted because they did not receive a proper education.

Under the law, Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) guarantees that every child in the United States receives an education in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).  Laws have been enacted, including IDEA 2004, which ensures that children with needs and disabilities have the equipment, resources, and adequately trained educators to guide them through their formative years. It also instructs how to transition students appropriately from secondary school into the real world. Understanding these crucial laws and processes will determine how well a school can meet every students' needs. To assist educators with learning about these laws and practices, Professional Development Courses at the University of La Verne created the Special Education Law course.


Benefits of the Course Special Education Law

Through jargon-free and easy-to-understand texts and materials, K-12 educators and school administrators will learn how to understand student disabilities, the pre-referral and referral process, evaluations, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and Section 504 Plans. Students will also dive into understanding transitional services, roles of education professionals and their responsibilities, detailed descriptions of laws and related court cases, storing and maintaining records, and many more related topics.

Additional topics include:

  • Understand the definition of special education law and how laws and regulations classify disabilities.
  • Gain a comprehensive and detailed explanation of the differences and similarities between Section 504 and IDEA 2004.
  • Obtain information on what it means to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
  • Learn what it means to determine the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
  • Learn the legal responsibilities of IEP team members.
  • Exploring the detailed process, from start to finish, of an IEP.
  • Understand how to interact with parents in an efficient and caring manner.
  • Receive information on basic principles of the laws and regulations regarding student supervision.
  • Learn about the laws and regulations regarding student discipline and behavior.
  • Understand how to document and keep legal records properly.


Special Education Law Course Contents

Through this three-semester credit course, teachers and school administrators will be eager to learn the ins and outs of special education law and how to follow best practices and policies.

Course content includes:

  • Understand special education and the laws that affect it.
  • Learn about the Parent-educator partnership.
  • Learn about the referral and evaluation process, including the pre-evaluation process.
  • How to partner with peers, administrators, and paraprofessionals.
  • Procedures for general education teachers and the basic principles of IEPs.
  • Information about other students who require accommodations and related services.
  • Classroom management and student behavior plans.
  • Implement appropriate behavior interventions.
  • Understand the importance of documentation.
  • The rules of record-keeping and confidentiality.
  • Assessment, grades, graduation, and diplomas.
  • Avoid unilateral action.
  • Present a positive image: monitoring yourself inside and outside school.

Special Education Law’s self-paced curriculum is for busy K-12 teachers and administrators who want a distance learning course's flexibility and convenience while earning graduate credit from an accredited university. All content is self-paced, written in user-friendly language, and accessible online 24/7 or via PDF format delivered directly to your email inbox.

Note, the University of La Verne is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Since requirements may vary, students should check with their school district or state department of education before enrolling in a course.


How to Register

Are you ready to dive into the world of Special Education Law? Students can complete this three-semester credit course online or via an emailed PDF format. All books and materials are mailed to the student regardless of the format selected. Like all courses offered through Professional Development Courses at the University of La Verne, this course features online chat support and quick grading turnaround times. This course is open for registration at any time during each semester. Upon completion, students receive graduate, non-degree semester credit on official transcripts from the University of La Verne, an accredited university in La Verne, California.

Registration is simple and can be done online or over the phone. Courses are available on a rolling basis during three standard semesters, and you can begin whenever you are ready! Students may enroll in up to a maximum of 15-semester credits at any time during each semester.

The registration dates are:

Fall: September 1 – January 31

Spring: February 1 – May 31

Summer: June 1 – August 31

Special Education Law, offered by Professional Development Courses at the University of La Verne, will give you practical, straightforward tools and resources to ensure you understand the legal requirements of IEPs, Section 504 Plans, and other special needs services. Once you have this knowledge in your toolkit of information, you will be ready to help meet your students’ needs every day!


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