We hear it all the time at IEP meetings, so what exactly is a FAPE?

A FAPE stands for Free Appropriate Public Education. The acronym comes for the from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), a federal law that guarantees the right to special education for children with disabilities.  

The components of FAPE are easy to understand. 

The F stands for Free. A school district cannot charge the parents of a student with disabilities for any services or supports required to provide that student an education.

The A stands for Appropriate. A school district is required to provide a special education program that enables the child to access their education and make meaningful progress in light of their disabilities.

The P stands for Public. The education program must be supervised by a public school. This means an IEP team which includes a student’s parents, teachers and administrators.

Finally, the E stands for Education. This includes special education as well as related services like occupational therapy or mental health support.

A FAPE means providing a student with a special education program to meet their unique needs with specifically designed instruction as well as related services to help a student benefit from their special education program.

A school can provide anything from speech and language services to a residential treatment program. When a school fails at their obligation we usually say they “denied the student a FAPE.”

The term itself is powerful, so understanding what it means is an important part of participating in the IEP process. 


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