Under the Supreme Court test established by Rowley, a free appropriate public education (FAPE) consists of educational instruction specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the handicapped child and related services as are necessary to permit the child to benefit from the instruction. FAPE is not required to maximize the potential of each child; however, it must be sufficient to confer educational benefit. The Rowley standard is satisfied by providing meaningful access to educational opportunities for the disabled child.
Under Rowley, there are two components to the FAPE analysis, one procedural and the other substantive. An educational program can be set aside for failure to provide FAPE on procedural grounds under three circumstances:
1. Where the procedural inadequacies have “compromised the pupil’s right to an appropriate education”;
2. When the district’s conduct has “seriously hampered the parents’ opportunity to participate in the formulation process”; or
3. When the procedural failure has resulted in “a deprivation of educational benefits.” (Independent School District No. 283 v. S.D).
Where this type of harm is found, the substantive question of whether the individualized education program (IEP) provided FAPE is not addressed by the hearing panel. (W.B. v. Target Range School District). Assuming no denial of FAPE on procedural grounds, the analysis turns to the substance of whether the IEP provides FAPE as defined in the Rowley standard and “whether a proposed IEP is adequate and appropriate for a particular child at a given point in time.”
If you have a child with a disability and have questions about special education law, please call the experienced Education Attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.