Special education, or special needs education, is a wide umbrella of resources and classes available to students who have a variety of special needs in order to receive the education. These special needs could range from issues with behavior or executive functions, communication disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), difficulty concentrating as in the case of ADD or ADHD, hearing impairments, literacy challenges such as dyslexia and dysgraphia, and more.(1) 

It is the duty of all schools to educate all of their students to the best of their ability, taking into account any special education needs. But in some cases, schools with a tight budget might cut or deny special education services, leaving students with special education needs and their parents in the lurch.

It’s important to know your rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when it comes to special education so that your child is not denied the education resources they deserve. Here’s what to know if your school cuts special education services or denies them to your child. 

All Students With Disabilities Are Guaranteed a Free Public Education

As stated by the American Psychological Association, “all children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.”(2) This includes:

  • A free public education
  • An evaluation when a student is believed to have disabilities that could impact their learning
  • Creation of an individualized education plan, or IEP, so that the child can reach their academic goals

With nearly 7,000 students with diagnosed disabilities in United States schools in 2018,(3) it is essential that they receive the education they need to prepare them for higher education and eventually adult life. Thus, even when a school board has a tight budget, your student still has a right to these resources.

What About Magnet Schools or Charter Schools?

Magnet schools and charter schools tend to straddle the line between public and private schools. Magnet schools are public schools with specialized courses and voluntary attendance, regardless of school zone. Charter schools have a private board that runs them but they receive government funding. However, both of these schools still count as public schools and, under IDEA, they’re still required to offer a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities.(4)

In the Midst of the Pandemic

Schools have had to change the way they operate in many ways since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have switched to remote learning, which could have an impact on the way that special education services and IEP programs were offered. However, even in these unprecedented times — in fact, especially in these unprecedented times, your child is still legally entitled to a FAPE including special education services. The Education Department released guidance for schools that lays out how to carry on special education services in the midst of the pandemic.(5) Among these guidelines are:

  • Schools are still required to offer special education services if they still offer education services to the general student population.
  • IEP teams may consider a distance learning plan — such as remote learning, in order to continue special education services throughout the pandemic.
  • State lead agencies which are open may still perform early intervention services (EIS) to infants and toddlers with disabilities, whether at their office or another location.

Reasons a School May Deny Your Child Special Education Services — And What To Do About Them

Sometimes — either through a misunderstanding of IDEA or through a hope that the parent misunderstands IDEA — schools may deny special education services to a child with special needs. Some of the reasons they offer may include:

  • The child gets good grades or has been getting good grades since creating an IEP (followed by a plan to discontinue special education services).
  • The school wants to try response to intervention (RTI) first.
  • The child’s issues are behavioral rather than academic.
  • There’s no room in the budget for special education accommodations.

However, all of these reasons for denying special education services go strictly against IDEA. According to IDEA regulations, passing grades are not a reason to deny a child special education services, and behavioral disabilities are also covered under IDEA.(6) While RTIs are a great way to identify a child’s specific needs, IDEA is clear that they should not be used to delay special education services. And, as we’ve covered above, all public schools are required to offer special education services in “the least restrictive environment,” regardless of the school’s budget.

If your child’s school attempts to use any of these reasons to stop special education services for your child, be sure to refer them to IDEA regulations. Write a letter to the school or school board with your complaints. If you’re still denied, it may be time to seek legal action to protect your child’s right to special education services.

At NeuroBehavioral Associates, we offer comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations, treatment services, and parent resources including research papers and information on your child’s rights under IDEA. Need help advocating for your child? Contact us today for more information.



  1. Special Education Needs from Cambridge Assessment International Education
  2. Individuals With Disabilities Education Act from American Psychological Association
  3. Fast Facts: Students with disabilities from National Center for Education Statistics
  4. Charter Schools from Parent Center Hub
  5. Questions And Answers On Providing Services To Children With Disabilities During The Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak from the Department of Education

Statutes and Regulations – Individuals With Disabilities Education Act