Free & Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

What is Free & Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)?

FAPE is anti-discrimination that allows students with disabilities to be provided equal access to an education. Public schools must evaluate students who, because of a disability, may need special education or related services; determine what those services should be; and provide those services along with procedural safeguards.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

  • Mandates school districts provide access to general education and specialized educational services at public expense to students who have a disability.
  • Provides special education and related services so that student can receive FAPE

Section 504 – FAPE

  • Under Section 504, an “appropriate education” is regular or special education and related aids and services that meet the educational needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students and that satisfy certain procedural requirements.
  • The word “Appropriate” is used throughout IDEA and Section 504, and generally refers to the supports and services depending on student’s specific needs, specific strengths and specific goals. For example, for a student with symptoms which interfere with writing, “appropriate” accommodations could include: access to a scribe; notes provided; or access to computer. For a student with superior abilities who is overwhelmed in large classroom, an “appropriate” accommodation” would be a smaller setting.  By contrast, settings for children with low abilities or for students with behavior challenges would NOT be “appropriate.”

In IEP/504 meetings, parents should use the word “appropriate” when requesting supports, services, placement. Schools are not required to provide the “best” education, but are mandated to provide appropriate “Appropriate” education — which is better.

Fact vs Common Misconceptions


  • Free and Appropriate Public Education is provided:
  • At Public Expense
  • Under public supervision and direction
  • Without charge to parent or guardian


Children with disabilities, as all children, must pay for:

  • Materials
  • Student Fees
  • Any other costs requested of general Ed. students


Students with disabilities are provided:

  • Modifications
  • Accommodations
  • Support services
  • Allowing for equal access to an education


District Does Not need to provide:

  • Specialized program or setting chosen by parent
  • Greater access to education materials or a superior program than is provided to students without disabilities

Many students are mistakenly denied eligibility because of their above-average grades and/or high achievement assessment scores. Section 504 states that students can be found to be eligible, and provided FAPE “regardless of their intelligence,” if the disability results in students being “unable to fully demonstrate their ability.”

Additional Resources

Free Pamphlet: Appropriate Public Education for Students With Disabilities: Requirements Under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973