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IDEAs that Work

March 12, 1999

March 12, 1999

Contact: Jim Bradshaw
(202) 401-2310


As part of the effort to strengthen educational opportunities for America's six million students with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education today published in the Federal Register final regulations to implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997.

"The new IDEA focuses on teaching and learning and establishes high expectations for disabled children to achieve real educational results," said U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. "Our package of regulations reflects the many good changes Congress made to the law with the IDEA Amendments which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support."

"The thrust of IDEA has changed from one that merely provides disabled children access to an education to one that improves quality for all children in our schools."

Judith E. Heumann, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, said, "We have prepared a user-friendly package of regulations. They are designed to help parents, teachers and school administrators understand the federal expectations for educating children with disabilities under the law.

"Fundamentally, we have protected the basic rights of children with disabilities to a free appropriate public education while ensuring that schools have the flexibility and tools necessary to offer a quality education in a safe environment."

In October 1997, the Department of Education published proposed regulations based on the 1997 amendments to the IDEA. Public comments were solicited, and almost 6,000 were submitted to the department. Nearly two-thirds of the regulatory package responds to the comments, while a quarter contains the actual text of the regulations and statute.

Among the highlights:

  • Students and the General Curriculum.
    IDEA establishes the Individualized Education Program (IEP) as the major tool in a student's involvement and progress in the general curriculum. The regulations offer guidance on the types of issues that the IEP should address to achieve the statutory requirements.
  • Student Assessment.
    Students with disabilities must be included in general state and district-wide assessment programs, according to IDEA '97. The regulations offer guidance about the participation of children with disabilities in these assessments.
  • Teacher Involvement.
    The 1997 amendments provide that each IEP team includes at least one of the child's regular education teachers if the child is or may be participating in the regular education environment. The regulations clarify that attendance of regular education teachers at IEP meetings will be determined on a case by case basis in an effort to be less time consuming.
  • Graduation with a Diploma.
    The final regulations incorporate the department's long-standing policy that a student's right to a "free appropriate public education" is terminated upon graduation with a regular high school diploma, but not ended by any other kind of graduation certificate or diploma.
  • Student Discipline.
    IDEA '97 authorized schools to remove a student for up to 10 school days for minor disciplinary infractions and for up to 45 days for dangerous behavior involving weapons or drugs and gave schools the ability to ask a hearing officer to remove students who are serious threats to themselves or others. The final regulations incorporate the statutory changes and clarify that services do not need to be provided during the first 10 days in a school year that a child with a disability is removed from his or her regular placement. If a child is subsequently removed for up to 10 school days for other violations of school conduct codes, services must be provided to the extent necessary to enable the child to continue to appropriately progress in the general curriculum and appropriately advance toward the goals of the IEP. For example, if a child is subsequently removed for only one or two more days and is generally doing well in school, it could be that the only service that might be necessary is that homework or make-up assignments are sent home. For longer periods, more services will likely be necessary. The regulations also clarify the number of required meetings over disciplinary actions involving school personnel and make clear that school personnel do have the authority to remove children to preserve school safety.

"This regulatory package offers some much-needed guidance to those working so hard to improve educational results for all children," Riley said.

"We will be providing a lot of specific and ongoing technical assistance," added Heumann. "For the next few months, those technical assistance efforts will be specific to the statute and accompanying regulations. Ongoing technical assistance activities will incorporate specific and appropriate research-based practices that work."

Congress overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan reauthorization of the IDEA statute in May 1997, and President Clinton signed the bill into law in June.

The regulations package was released today on the Government Printing Office's website at:

under "Education Department: Rules." Details of the regulations can be found at the Education Department's website at:

Copies may also be ordered by calling the department's publications center at 1-877-4-ED-PUBS. For TTY/TTD, call 877-576-7734.


Note (3/15/99):
Copies of the Final Regulations can now be obtained directly at:




March 4, 2003 by pas