• Federal and State Laws Related to Exceptional Student Education

    • IDEA 2004 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004)


    There are two other laws governing the educational rights of students with disabilities 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. Further elaboration on FERPA, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is included later in this package.


    This law is critical, because it addresses discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law has different sections which refer to different areas of discrimination, as follows:

    1. Section 501: Employment of Handicapped Individuals
    2. Section 502: Architectural and Transportation Board Compliance
    3. Section 503: Employment under Federal Contracts
    4. Section 504: Non-discrimination under Federal Grants

    To this day, Section 504 provides individuals with disabilities with basic civil rights protection against discrimination in federal programs. The law states that

    no otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his (or her) handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

    To be eligible for the protection under Section 504, an individual must meet the definition of a handicapped person. This definition is:

    Any person who (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment.

    Major life activities include self-care, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and walking. Section 504 covers only those persons with a disability who would otherwise be qualified to participate and benefit from the programs or other activities receiving federal financial assistance. All ESE students fall under Section 504 and necessary accomodations are specified in the IEP.

    Section 504 assures equal opportunities for children and youth with disabilities in schools receiving federal funds-pre-schools, elementary and secondary schools, and postsecondary institutions. Agencies that persist in acts of discrimination face the loss of federal funds. Along with school districts, this includes colleges and universities, vocational education and adult education programs, state and local governments, places of employment, hospitals and clinics, and public and private groups of all kinds which receive federal financial assistance.

    Public Law 93-112 has been amended several times. In 1983, P.L. 98-221, the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1983, authorized several demonstration projects regarding the transition of youth with disabilities from school to work. In 1986, P.L. 99-506, the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1986, provided for programs in supported employment services for individuals with disabilities.

    Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974

    This law was passed by Congress in 1974 to protect the privacy of student education records, and applies to all schools that receive money from the U.S. Department of Education.

    The Act gives certain rights to parents regarding their child's education records. These rights transfer to the student or former student who has reached the age of 18 or is attending any school beyond the high school level. Students and former students to whom the rights have transferred are called eligible students.

    • The right to inspect nad review the student's records maintained by the school;
    • The right to request that a school amend the student's education records;
    • The right to consent in writing to the disclosure of personally identifiable information for the student's education record, except under certain permitted situation; and
    • The right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) regarding an alleged violation under FERPA. 

    If you wish to see your child's education records, or if you are over 18 or are attending college and would like to see your records, you should contact the school to find out the procedure to follow.

    If there are questions the school cannot answer, or, if you have problems in securing your rights under this Act, please contact the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Office.

Last Modified on October 22, 2021