Public schools in Pennsylvania have a legal requirement to provide special education to students with disabilities who need them. There are both federal and state laws that work together in order to allow these students to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

Important Federal Regulations for Children with Disabilities

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004)The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) ensures that all children with disabilities have a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and that the rights of such children and their parents are protected. It also aligns to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.


Section 504 of The Rehabilitation ActSection 504 of this civil rights law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Under this law, a student with a disability is entitled to have equal access to an education.


To find out more about Section 504, read the Office for Civil Rights Frequently Asked Questions document.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ESSA was signed into law in December, 2015, and reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Family Education and Rights Privacy ActThis federal law ensures that parents have the right to access their child’s education records. It also protects the privacy of students by limiting who has access to records.

Important State Laws for Children with Disabilities

Pennsylvania has a State Board of Education which has the authority to create and revise regulations related to school and education issues. They are indexed in the PA Code, Title 22, Education. Each chapter provides the regulations on one topic.

Chapter 14: Special Education Services and ProgramsThese are the state’s regulations on the school’s responsibility to provide a free and appropriate public education to students with disabilities. This chapter adopts many of the federal regulations in IDEA, but also includes regulations that are specific to Pennsylvania.

Chapter 711: Charter School Services and Programs for Children with DisabilitiesThis chapter is similar to Chapter 14; however it applies to students with disabilities who are in a charter or cyber charter school.

Chapter 15: Protected Handicapped StudentsThese regulations are based on Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act and apply to students who have a disability but do not qualify for special education services under Chapter 14.

Chapter 16: Special Education for Gifted StudentsThese are the state’s regulations for education of gifted students.

Chapter 4: Academic Standards and AssessmentThis chapter establishes the state’s academic standards and assessment in order to improve student achievement. High school graduation requirements are included.

Chapter 11: Student Attendance
This chapter includes regulations on admission to school, attendance, absences, and excusals from school.

Chapter 12: Students and Student ServicesThese regulations address students’ rights and responsibilities, including exclusions from school (suspension and expulsion).