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Introduction from the IDEA

ELLEN A. CALLEGARY, ESQ., a practicing attorney for over thirty years and a founding partner of the Law Offices of Ellen A. Callegary, P.A., focuses on special education, disability, and family law issues. Ellen represents children and adults with disabilities to help them get appropriate services such as special education and rehabilitation services throughout the State. She also helps families through the guardianship, mental health, and health care decision making processes.

“Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.”

“The purposes of the IDEA are:

  • to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living;
  • to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected; and
  • to assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities.”

Sources of the Law

Most special education provided in public schools is the result of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (commonly referred to as the IDEA), a section of the U.S. Code at 20 U.S.C. § 1400. There are federal regulations derived from the IDEA included in the Code of Federal Regulations. Much of what is included in this handbook is taken from the Code of Maryland Regulations, or COMAR – regulations that only apply in Maryland, and are based on IDEA and its implementing federal regulations.

Readers should know that special education services and accommodations can also be provided under 29 U.S.C. § 794 (commonly called Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or just Section 504). Federal regulations for Section 504 provide that public school systems “shall provide a free appropriate public education to each qualified handicapped person who is in the recipient’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s handicap.”3

This Handbook is intended to serve as a brief introduction to some of the most important sections of the laws dealing with special education in Maryland. This Handbook is not a comprehensive review of all statutes, regulations and case law dealing with special education.