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An Overview of the Individuals with Disabilities
Amendments of 1997 (P.L. 105-17): THIS DIGEST SUPERSEDES ERIC EC DIGEST E562
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC EC Digest #E576
Authors: Bernadette Knoblauch and Kathleen McLane
On June 4, 1997, President William J. Clinton signed the bill
reauthorizing and amending the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA). The bill became Public Law 105-17, the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act
Amendments of 1997. The law is
frequently referred to as IDEA '97.
IDEA is organized in four parts: Part A, General Provisions; Part
B, Assistance for the Education
of All Children with Disabilities (school age/preschool
programs); Part C, Infants and Toddlers
with Disabilities; and Part D, National Activities to Improve the
Education of Children with
Disabilities (support programs). P.L. 105-17 retains the major
provisions of earlier federal laws
in this area, including the assurance of having a free
appropriate public education (FAPE)
available to all children with disabilities, in the least
restrictive environment (LRE), and the
guarantee of due-process procedures and procedural safeguards. It
also includes modifications to
the law. Some of the changes that affect special education
practice nationwide include:
Following are some of the highlights of the new law.
- Participation of students with disabilities in state and
district-wide assessment (testing)
programs, with appropriate accommodations where necessary.
The law also includes the
development of guidelines, as appropriate, for participation
of children with disabilities
in alternate assessments, for those children who cannot
participate in regular assessments
with accommodations and modifications.
- Development and review of the individualized
education program (IEP), including
increased emphasis on participation of children and youth
with disabilities in the general
curriculum and the involvement of regular education teachers
in developing, reviewing
and revising the IEP.
- Enhanced parent participation in eligibility and
- Streamlined student evaluation and re-evaluation
- Beginning at age 14, and updated annually, a
statement of the transition service needs of the student that
focuses on the student's courses of study.
- The availability of mediation as a means of more
easily resolving parent-school differences. At a minimum,
mediation must be available whenever a due-process hearing
- Disciplinary procedures for students with
disabilities, including placement of certain
students with disabilities in appropriate interim
alternative educational settings for up to
- Allowing children ages 3-9 to be identified as
developmentally delayed, with the upper
age limit at the discretion of the state and the local
educational agency. Previously, the
developmental delay category was restricted to ages 3-5.
Outcomes and Standards
IDEA '97 requires states to:
Evaluations and Curriculum
- Include students with disabilities in state and
district-wide testing programs, with
appropriate accommodations when necessary.
- Establish performance goals and indicators for
students with disabilities.
In the area of evaluations and IEPs, IDEA '97:
- Requires a statement of any type of individual
accommodation or modification that is
needed for the student to be able to participate in state-
or district-wide assessments of
- Requires states to ensure that students with
disabilities have access to the general
curriculum. If a student will not be participating with
nondisabled children in the regular
classroom and extracurricular and other non-academic
activities, an explanation in the
student's IEP is required.
- Requires at least one regular education teacher of
child to be a member of the IEP
team if the student is participating or might be
participating in the regular education
- Expressly requires that the IEP address positive
behavioral intervention strategies, if
appropriate, in the case of a student whose behavior impedes
his or her progress.
- Requires state and local educational agencies to
that parents are members of any
group that makes placement decisions or any other decisions
regarding the child.
- Streamlines the reevaluation process, allowing
and school districts to identify
what additional reevaluation data, if any, are needed.
- Requires informed parental consent for all
In the case of reevaluations,
consent is required unless the school district can
demonstrate that it has taken reasonable
measures to obtain consent and the parent has failed to
- Requires that parents be informed about the
progress of their child, by means
such as periodic report cards, at least as often as parents
of nondisabled children.
- Specifies that a statement of transition services
relating to the student's course of
study be included in the student's IEP, beginning at age 14
and to be updated annually.
- In the case of a child who is blind or visually
impaired, provides for instruction in Braille
or the use of Braille, unless the IEP team determines, after
an evaluation of the child's
current and future needs, that Braille instruction or use is
- Adds "orientation and mobility services" to the
definition of related services.
- Requires that the language used in delivering
information to parents about their child's
rights be as easily understood as possible.
- Requires that parents be given access to all records
relating to their child, not just those
"relevant" records on the identification, evaluation, and
educational placement of their
- Preserves existing procedural safeguards, such as
process and the right of parents to
recover reasonable attorneys' fees and costs if they prevail
in administrative or judicial
proceedings under IDEA. (But, in most cases, attorneys' fees
cannot be reimbursed for
- Requires each state to establish a voluntary
process, with qualified, impartial
mediators who are knowledgeable about mediation techniques
as well as special
education laws and regulations.
Early Intervention Services
- Ensures that no student with a disability is
denied continuing educational services due to
behavior. Schools must continue to provide educational
services for students with
disabilities whose suspension or expulsion constitutes a
change in placement (usually
more than 10 days in a school year).
- Gives schools the authority to remove students with
disabilities to appropriate interim
alternative educational settings (IAES) for behavior related
to drugs, guns, and other
dangerous weapons for up to 45 days.
- Allows schools to suspend students with disabilities
for up to 10 school days to the extent that such alternatives are
used for children without disabilities.
- Requires the IEP team to conduct a "manifestation
determination" once a disciplinary
action for a student with a disability is contemplated. The
IEP team must determine-
within 10 calendar days after the school decides to
discipline a student-whether the
student's behavior is related to the disability. If the
behavior is not related to the
disability, the student may be disciplined in the same way
as a student without a
disability, but the appropriate educational services must
- Permits school personnel to report crimes allegedly
committed by students with
disabilities to law enforcement authorities.
In the area of early intervention services,
which is now Part C, IDEA '97:
- Requires that local school districts participate
in a transition planning conference for
parents of toddlers with disabilities who are about to enter
- Explicitly calls for delivery of early intervention
services in natural environments.
- Clarifies that Part C funds for early intervention
services are the payor of last resort.
Teacher Training and Preparation
- Creates a new system of grants to improve
results for students with disabilities through
system reform, emphasizing personnel training and training
for regular education
teachers of early grades.
Bazelon Center for Mental Health. (1998). A New IDEA: A
Parent's Guide to the Changes in
Special Education Law for Children with Disabilities.
The Council for Exceptional Children. 1998. IDEA 97:
Let's Make It Work, Reston, VA.
New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council. Fall 1997.
Illinois Assistive Technology Project. 1997.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of
1997. (P. L. 105-17). 1997. 20
U.S.C. Chapter 33.
Kü, L. (Editor). 1998. "The IDEA Amendments of
1997." NICHCY News Digest 26
ERIC Digests are in the public domain
and may be freely
reproduced and disseminated,
but please acknowledge your source. This publication was
prepared with funding from
the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S.
Department of Education,
under contract no. ED-99-CO-0026. The opinions expressed in this
report do not
necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the
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