The Importance of the Special Education Eligibility

Parents want what is best for their child. When it comes to education, as a parent, you need to weigh certain factors to ensure your child has the education you feel is best. One of, if not the most important decision you will make regarding your child’s education is whether to have them tested for special education services. The short answer to if your child should be tested for special education services is yes. The long answer is that the benefits will far outweigh any potential draw backs.

The most important reason to have an eligibility determination for your child to receive special education services is that only through the federal special education laws is your child entitled to an appropriate education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, guarantees that all students who are eligible for services under those laws receive a Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE for short. The Courts have made it clear that a FAPE does not mean the best education that student could receive, merely an appropriate one. This may sound like a lower threshold than you would like as a concerned parent, but it is actually a better than the alternative requirement for children that have not been designated eligible for special education.

A case came out of the Michigan Eastern District Court in June of 2018, which as of the time of this article has not had any subsequent history or conflicting cases from other jurisdictions. That Court came to the conclusion that “[w]hen a child who could be taught to read goes untaught, the child suffers a lasting injury – and so does society. But… does the Due Process Clause demand that a State affirmatively provide each child with a defined, minimum level of education by which the child can attain literacy? Based on the foregoing analysis, the answer to the question is no”. [1]

Following that Court’s decision it can be stated that a student in regular education classes does not have any right to even a minimum level of education. However a student identified for special education does have the right to an appropriate education. What an appropriate education is will depend on the student, but at the very least it will be more than a minimum level of education.

Some parents may be afraid of a perceived stigma associated with being identified as needing special education services. Or they may be concerned that the services may interfere with their child’s regular classes. All of these concerns are valid, however you also have some level of influence on the outcomes of those concerns by working within the IDEA framework.

What you will not have any influence on if you do not have your child tested for special education eligibility is if they have a right to an education that will actually be appropriate and will educate them.

If you have questions regarding special education or IEPs in the central Virginia area, including Richmond, Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, Powhatan and Petersburg, please contact us at 804-423-1382 or email us at to set up an initial consultation with one of our attorneys or parent advocates.

[1] Gary B. v. Snyder, 313 F. Supp.3d 852, 875 (6th Circuit 2018).