What is FAPE? (Free and Appropriate Public Education)

2 Jun

Text from the Massachusetts DOE/FCSP publication “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education”

FREE AND APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION (FAPE)

A child who is eligible for special education services is entitled by federal law to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). FAPE ensures that all students with disabilities receive an appropriate public education at no expense to the family. FAPE differs for each student because each student has unique needs. FAPE specifies that needed services must be provided without cost to the family.

FAPE guarantees that for students who are found eligible for special education, school districts must be prepared to provide services according to an IEP beginning no later than their third birthday. If a student continues to be eligible, services may continue until the student graduates from high school with a standard diploma or turns 22, whichever comes first.

FAPE also means that students receiving special education services have access to and make meaningful progress in the general curriculum (i.e. the same curriculum as students without disabilities) and the right to be full participants in the life of the school. Your child is not only entitled to access the academic portion of school but also to participate in extracurricular and other activities sponsored by the school. Full participation means that students with disabilities are entitled to the aids and services needed to assist them in participating in all areas of school life. FAPE is closely tied to a principle known as the “Least Restrictive Environment” which is described in detail in the next section of this Guide.

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