There are several statutes designed to benefit children with disabilities. One such statute is the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act (HCPA) of 1986.
A significant win for civil rights and disability advocates, the HCPA builds on the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) of 1975. The EAHCA mandates that public schools receiving financial support from the federal government give children with disabilities nondiscriminatory access to all education and food programs; the HCPA adds a clause concerning legal costs for individuals who prevail in a lawsuit based on the EAHCA. Both Acts stipulate that schools permit parents of children with disabilities to participate in the formation and implementation of their child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). The two Acts also dictate that if parents deem their child’s IEP unsuitable, they have the right to a hearing run by the State Education Department and to bring their case to state and/or federal court.
The HCPA also includes clauses regarding disabled children from birth to five years old. It ensures that disabled children, ages three, four, and five, are guaranteed a Free and Appropriate Public Education like their nondisabled peers. Similarly, the Act offers Early Intervention Programs aimed at newborns, infants, and toddlers with disabilities. In addition, the HCPA offers families with disabled newborns and toddlers an Individualized Family Service Plan, which maps out what services each child and family need.
Moreover, the HCPA ensures that public educators keep parents of disabled children informed of decisions regarding their child and involved with their child’s education. The HCPA also enables parents, school administrators, educators, and experts to work together to ensure that each individual child with a disability receives the proper assistance, support, and accommodations he or she needs to succeed academically. Similarly, the Act promotes the exchanging of ideas and opinions among parents, school administrators, educators, and experts.
The HCPA came about after the United States Supreme Court made its final ruling on the 1984 case Smith v. Robinson. The high court ruled that the EAHCA is the primary enforcement mechanism of disability rights in the educational arena, but it also ruled that the EAHCA does not cover how, when, and/or where legal costs are to be resolved. The HCPA covers this issue favorably for parents.
If you or your child has special needs and is experiencing disability discrimination, know this: You have rights and legal remedies. If you have questions or concerns about America’s disability and education laws, talk to a lawyer. For more information, to have your questions answered, and to have your concerns addressed, contact Nashville Disability and Education Attorney Perry A. Craft.