FAPE stands for “Free Appropriate Public Education.” It is a legal term used in the United States under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which requires that all children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education that meets their unique needs and prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living. FAPE ensures that students with disabilities have access to equal educational opportunities to those provided to their non-disabled peers. This means that schools must provide special education and related services to eligible students with disabilities at no cost to the parents or guardians. These services must be tailored to meet the student’s individual needs.
The history of FAPE can be traced back to the mid-20th century when the United States began to address the educational needs of children with disabilities.
In 1954, the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. This decision paved the way for other civil rights legislation, including the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) of 1975.
The EAHCA, also known as Public Law 94-142, was the first federal law that required all public schools to provide free appropriate public education to children with disabilities. The law mandated that schools provide services and accommodations to ensure that children with disabilities had access to education comparable to that provided to their non-disabled peers.
The EAHCA was reauthorized and amended in 1990 as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law expanded the scope of services and accommodations available to children with disabilities, including early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities.
IDEA has since been amended several times, most recently in 2004. The law continues to require that public schools provide free appropriate public education to children with disabilities, and it outlines specific requirements for the identification, evaluation, and placement of students with disabilities.
Overall, the history of FAPE reflects a growing recognition of the importance of providing children with disabilities equal access to education and opportunities. Implementing FAPE has helped many children with disabilities achieve their full potential and live fulfilling lives.