[Current Topics in Psychology]

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Re-authorization 2004-5

IDEA Practices
The IDEA Practices site had become the most comprehensive IDEA resource online and then its 5 year grant expired and its links went dead. Some site resources are back online by popular demand, and now maintained under the auspices of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC): A partnership of government and private organizations presents everything about IDEA.

CEC and IDEA35.org Celebrate and Recall 35 Years of IDEA Protections for Children



At the Federal Level, Federal Law PL92-142 expired in the lap of the 104th Congress, led by Dole and Gingrich, who were commited to a "Contract with America" which did not include protections for children with disability. In 2 years of Congressional gridlock, the update of the expired bill did not emerge as a priority, and failed to come to a vote prior to the dissolution of Congress and the long Election season.

In its 1996-98 version, the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) argues convincingly that children are over-labelled and that disability, for the purpose of providing a "free appropriate public education" in the "least restrictive setting", basically falls into only one of two categories: physical or mental disability. And yet, there is no requirement that children suspected of having a disability be evaluated by a physician or psychologist. Who, then , will be providing the services to children with physical or mental disability? Whoever the school system decides is "appropriate"? Would you want just anyone diagnosing YOUR child's physical or mental illness?

The final IDEA, which replaces PL94-142 (having expired in 1995), was finally re-authorized, along with its regulations for implementation, in May 1998. Congress and the Department of Education completed taking testimony in January 1999, and individual states were required to submit their own plans to bring Education Law into compliance with the broad mandates of IDEA. States were already writing additional legislation by this time,in anticipation of the IDEA's new opportunities for "flexible" service provisions for children with disability. It is thus very important to review not only the IDEA, which is now the law of the land, but also state education law as it has been been written to accommodate the changes subsequent to the expiration of PL94-142.

President Clinton Signs IDEA Education Law
Wednesday (6-4-97)

Friday May 16, 1997 -
Both Houses of Congress rapidly and overwhelmingly passed the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) this week, with generally enthusiastic responses quickly coming from teachers' unions, advocates for children, and several professional organizations. Not everyone will be pleased however, with the implications for psychology, children and parents, or with the bill's emphasis on discipline over diagnosis and treatment of mental disability.

The bill continues to protect disabled children with due process and the right to a classroom- based IEP, but does not include psychologists as mandated members of CSE's, or even of the assessment teams charged with diagnosing "cognitive" and "emotional" disability. Hypothetically, the current law allows states to have the diagnosis and treatment of disability provided exclusively by a regular classroom teacher, or anyone else deemed "appropriate" by school districts and test manufacturers.

I.D.E.A. ALERT! (January 1998)

APA Warns of Potential Threat

Here is some early analysis by the American Psychological Association. Their concern is with the potential for unlicensed, unsupervised paraprofessionals becoming engaged in delivery of "school psychology services".

you most likely know, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued proposed regulations for the 1997 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for a 90-day public review and commentary period. Although there is much good about the new law, the proposed regulations threaten the practice of school psychology and increase risk to harm and/or poorly serve children and schools receiving and providing special education and related services....(Nov.18, 1997)

A wide range of psychological services could end up being diverted from school psychologists to paraprofessionals and assistants with only nominal training and supervision....(Dec.2, 1997)

NASP Urges Response from School Psychologists

The National Association of School Psychologists, in a Special Edition of the SPAN Update Newsletter (12/97), urges members write or send E-mail Comments to the US Department of Education. NASP urges members to support maintaining those laws which currently protect the quality of services to children while highlighting proposed changes which are either too ambiguous or counter-intuitive to the provision of quality services to children with disability. NASP's Focus on IDEA highlights the potential dangers of language as it is now proposed, in the areas of Definitions (e.g., of "qualified professionals" and "psychological services"), Personnel Standards, composition of The IEP Team (which under proposed changes would require the parent to specifically request the presence of some appropriate team members), and the requirements for Evaluations and Reevaluations.

Following is an excerpted statement, and an appeal, from Gorden Wrobel, Chair of NASP's Government and Professional Relations Committee:

School psychologists bring a unique perspective to the public policy process. Communicating your experience with children, families, and schools to policy makers is essential if IDEA '97 is going to be a really good IDEA. If IDEA is to succeed in the primary goal of producing better outcomes for learners, educators must step forward to assist with the development of effective local, state, and federal regulations and policies. School psychologists are one of the few education professionals who understand that unmet health and mental health needs are the largest barriers to learning. The new IDEA has the potential to bring to bear the resources of the entire community to remove these barriers. School psychologists need to speak to the need for regulation and policy that will mobilize communities to take on these barriers. Children can't wait for someone else to take up the cause. Write your letter today!


Deadline for Comments was: January 20, 1998

We now continue to watch as States implement the IDEA at the local level.

Here are Sample Letters from APA and NASP

There are some very positive aspects of IDEA as it is now written, as well as some reasons for concern, as outlined by APA, above. For example, there is a wonderful definition of "psychological services", which embraces the need for professional services in the areas of prevention, assessment, interpretation of psychological tests, and provision of "psychological counseling". Similarly, there are positive roles for social workers, with "social work services" including prevention, family assistance, and counseling. A very logical framework for intervention/prevention! BUT... the regulations do not specifically mandate that school districts use psychologists for the practice of psychological services, nor social workers for the practice of social work.

There is a reference in the "Qualifications" section to having school employees be appropriately licensed or certified by the state's highest standards, which sounds like an atypical call for excellence in educational settings. BUT...ironically, it may be possible under the current language to have a school-"licensed" paraprofessional administering psychological tests or providing the "social work services" to students and their families. Already job functions have become recklessly interchangeable under New York City's "enhanced model"!

The potential for unethical and invalid "psychological" testing of children, for the benefit of cost-cutting administrators rather than the welfare of children with disabilities, is frightening. Clearly, the IDEA is a crucial piece of legislation which will shape society's responsibilities to children with disabilities well into the next millennium.

Parents do retain the right to request professional evaluation by qualified personnel, but existing State laws which protect children with disability by requiring that a psychologist be part of the evaluation and decision-making process for children who may be mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, or developmentally disabled, are under attack by alleged cost-cutters, particularly in New York State. If the Pataki Budget went through as proposed, it would have systematically removed parent advocates and school psychologists as mandated members of teams, ending decades of New York's commitment to protecting children from arbitrary labelling and placement into Special Education based on non-objective, administrative whim, often motivated by other than "best practice" or the welfare of the disabled child attending public school.

             NEWS ALERTS!

Several organizations such as CHADD--which represents Children and Adults with attention deficit disorder-- have been also been actively monitoring the IDEA language in terms of its implications for professional practice in the schools.

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Last Updated: Saturday, 19-Sep-2020 00:46:29 EDT

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