What is FAPE?

Understanding rights under the law.

7/3/20212 min read

Students with disabilities have a legal right to a free appropriate public education. The acronym "FAPE" is used to mean a free appropriate public education and often just called FAPE. The federal law that gives these rights is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act The California version of the law is in California's Education Code.

F is for free. Free means the government pays for the education of students with disabilities. There’s no cost to families. However, families do have to pay the same extra school fees — for example, sports and club fees — that all students pay.

A is for appropriate. Appropriate means that kids who qualify get an Individualized Education Program (IEP) with services to meet their unique needs. Other students with disabilities may get a 504 plan that gives equal access to learning.

P is for public. Public means supervised by the public school. An IEP team — teachers, parents, and others decides what services and support the student gets. In a few cases, the government may pay for kids with disabilities to attend private school.

E is for education. Education can include special education. It can also include related services, like speech therapy, counseling, or even transportation. The goal is for kids to make progress in school and be prepared for the future.

Children with disabilities have a right to a free appropriate public education, no matter what type of disability they have. In California, disabled students between the ages of 3 and 22 may be eligible for special education and related services. FAPE means special education and related services designed for a student's unique needs. The student's education must be designed to help the student make progress in school. Special education must also be designed to help the student learn skills for independent living. Special Education means teaching that is designed to meet a student's particular needs. This education is free, may be taught in a general classroom or can be provided in a separate classroom for all or part of the school day. Usually, the student is taught by a teacher who has been trained in special education. Sometimes the student can be taught at home, in a hospital, or in temporary residential placement. Related Services are things such as transportation to and from school, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. Other related services may also be necessary to help a student with disabilities access their education. An Appropriate Education means that the student's education must be reasonably calculated to provide some educational benefit to the student. School districts need to offer a special education student a program that is reasonably calculated to enable the student to make progress according to the student's circumstances. Endrew F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist. RE-1, 137 S. Ct. 988 (2017).