Special Education Terms

Due Process

From time to time differences of opinion regarding the education of a student arise. Differences may develop about the evaluation of a student, his or her eligibility for special education services, the placement of the student as well as the provisions of Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). When differences of opinion occur and these differences cannot be resolved among the individuals involved, one way to solve them is through due process.

Due process is a broad term that provides multiple opportunities to resolve differences prior to engaging in an impartial due process hearing. Those opportunities may include mediation (also referred to as an AEA resolution facilitator process), a pre-appeal conference and/or a resolution conference. As the formality of the dispute resolution procedures increases, the Iowa Department of Education becomes involved. If no resolution can be reached between the individuals involved, a determination will be made by an administrative law judge at the conclusion of an impartial due process hearing.

For additional information, visit:

Iowa Department of Education


Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

FAPE, as defined in the 2006 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), means “Special education and related services that are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge; meet the standards of the State educational agency; include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and are provided in conformity with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that meets the requirements under IDEA.”

For additional information, visit:

U.S. Department of Education


Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

The term Individualized Education Program (IEP) is defined as a written statement for each child with a disability that describes the student’s special educational program as outlined in 281–Iowa Administrative Code 41.22. The purpose of the IEP is to provide a plan designed to meet the educational needs of an eligible individual and to commit the resources necessary to meet those needs. Each IEP is a legal document that spells out, among other things, the special education services, activities and supports each student will receive. A school or area education agency (AEA) must ensure that there is an IEP team for each child with a disability who is eligible for special education services. This team is responsible for developing the IEP for the child.

IEP Principles

The IEP is based on the following guiding principles:

  • The IEP is a process and product that documents that the student is receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with all federal and state requirements.
  • To the maximum extent appropriate, students are educated and participate with other students with disabilities and non-disabled children in the general education environment.
  • IEP development is a collaborative process.
  • The IEP team develops a program that is designed so that the student can progress toward meeting annual IEP goals, be involved in and progress in the general curriculum, participate in non-academic and extracurricular activities and be educated with non-disabled peers.
  • The IEP process involves on-going progress monitoring, and decision-making is based on the student’s needs to improve the student’s results.

IEP Process

  • Initial IEP – The IEP is developed at a meeting following the completion of a full and individual evaluation, and the determination of eligibility for special education services.
  • IEP Review – IEP reviews are conducted periodically, but must be conducted at least annually. Changes will be made to reflect growth in present levels of academic achievement and function performance over the past year.
  • IEP Re-evaluation – Re-evaluations of eligible individuals are required at a minimum, every three years, or sooner if needed.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

Educating students with disabilities in the general education setting with peers without disabilities has been shown to improve the learning of students with disabilities. The LRE is grounded in the idea that while the general education environment is the most ideal setting for students, some students may at times need special assistance and/or different settings in order to receive an appropriate education.

Schools must ensure that a continuum of alternative services and placements is available to meet the needs of eligible students. Removal from general education environments should occur only if the nature and severity of the disability are such that education in regular classes (with the use of supplementary aids and services) cannot be achieved satisfactorily. The placement is determined annually and is based on the needs outlined in the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The placement should be at the school the student would attend if he or she were not disabled unless the IEP requires another placement. The placement is to be as close to the child’s home as possible. Placement decisions must consider the quality of service the child needs, as well as any potentially harmful effect the placement could have on the child.

For additional information, visit:

Iowa Department of Education