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Frequently Asked Questions

What is special education?

Special education is individualized, intensive, and purposeful instruction designed to address distinct problems in teaching and learning that empowers students to overcome or compensate for disabilities that hinder learning, including:

  • Preventive intervention – Averting potential or minor learning deficiencies
  • Remedial intervention – Instruction aimed at eliminating the effect of a disability on learning
  • Compensatory intervention – Using various methods to compensate for a disability
Which students are eligible for special education?

In New Jersey, children aged 3 to 21 who need special education and related services due to a disability are eligible. Special education supports those who are:

  • Autistic
  • Cognitively impaired
  • Auditorily impaired
  • Communication impaired
  • Visually impaired
  • Emotionally disturbed
  • Orthopedically impaired
  • Preschool children with disabilities

It also supports children with:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Other health impairments
  • Specific learning disabilities
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Social maladjustment


What is an IEP?

This term is an acronym for individualized education programs (or plans, depending on the school district). The IEP is a legally binding contract of services provided by a school district for students classified with a disability.

While different school districts vary the IEP in format and structure, each IEP must by law contain certain components:

  1. A statement of the student’s present levels of educational performance
  2. A statement of annual goals, including short-term objectives
  3. A statement of special education, related services and supplementary aids and services provided for the student
  4. A statement indicating modifications in the administration of state or district-wide assessments of achievement (or a statement indicating that the student will not participate in such assessments)
  5. A statement documenting the projected date for the commencement of services and the frequency, location and duration of those services
  6. A statement explaining the criteria used to assess a student’s progress towards his/her annual goals and the means to be used in informing the parent/guardian of this progress
  7. If necessary, a statement explaining the extent to which the student will not participate with non-disabled students in the general education classroom and/or other activities
  8. For each student age 14 or older, a statement of transition needs and/or services
What is free appropriate public education (FAPE)?

Free appropriate public education, or FAPE, is the standard outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). By law, FAPE refers to special education and related services that have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge. These must meet the standards of the state education agency; include an appropriate preschool, elementary or secondary school education in the state involved; and be provided in conformity with the student’s IEP.

What is a Section 504 plan?

A Section 504 plan is a legally binding education plan created under the authority of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is not an IEP; instead, a Section 504 plan creates modifications and accommodations for special needs students who are attending general education classes. The student requesting a Section 504 plan must exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • A record of such a physical or mental impairment
  • Be perceived as having such a physical or mental impairment

Even though a student may not qualify for special education services under IDEA, he or she may still qualify for a Section 504 plan.

What is due process?

Due process is a legal principle outlined in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution: [No person shall] be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In reference to special education, the deprivation of liberty takes one of two forms: A parent may disagree with the school’s procedures or decisions regarding a child’s identification, evaluation, program or educational placement, or a school may disagree with a parent’s refusal to grant consent for a child’s evaluation or classification. If such disagreement occurs, either the parent(s) or school may then proceed through several dispute resolution steps ranging from mediation to lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey or the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

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