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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (PL 105-17)

The most substantive changes to the law affecting students with disabilities occurred on June 4, 1997 when President Clinton signed the law that amended and reauthorized the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The law was restructured from 9 into 4 subchapters. The IDEA Amendments placed greater emphases on the role of parents and families, general education personnel and students in the IEP process. Another major focus of the amendments was to ensure access to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities. Policy makers and advocates believed this would help in increasing expectations and strengthening outcomes for students with disabilities. You can read more about the changes in IDEA in the following topics:

Key Changes in IDEA

The chart below will provide you with additional information on the specific changes in IDEA.

General Provisions
  • Term "serious" omitted from "emotional disturbance" category
  • Prohibits placement in special education if child lacks only instruction in reading, math, or has limited English proficiency
  • Local education agencies are required to provide services for students with disabilities in charter schools.
  • Complete evaluation every three years may be deferred if the IEP team and other qualified professionals determine the child is still eligible for special education services.
  • Define orientation and mobility services.
  • Provides states the option to expand the definition of "developmental delay" to include students ages 6-9 years of age.
Clarifies FAPE for students with disabilities
  • School officials can discipline a student with a disability consistent with school or district practices for all students. EXCEPTIONS include (1) suspensions may not exceed 10 days unless student weapons or illegal substances are involved, and (2) hearing officers may order change of placement and/or time limits extended if student with disabilities presents a danger in the current placement.
  • The IEP team must use proactive interventions for students with disabilities who demonstrate behavior problems.
  • Requires states to continue providing services to students who have been suspended or expelled for disciplinary services.
Strengthening Roles of Parents
  • Clarifies the roles of legal guardians and surrogate parents.
  • Parents of students with disabilities must be informed of their student's progress toward annual goals as often as parents of students without disabilities are informed of the progress of their children.
  • Requires parent participation in decisions regarding eligibility & placement in special education
Ensuring Access to General Education
  • Strengthens collaborative process for working out differences through voluntary state funded mediation.
  • General education teachers are required to participate in IEP planning.
  • Documentation on the IEP of general education curriculum goals and standards applicable to students with disabilities.
  • Documentation of participation on state and district-wide testing, including necessary modification if necessary.
Focusing on Teaching & Learning
  • States must report state and district-wide assessment performance of students with disabilities in the same manner as for students without disabilities.
  • Beginning when the student is 14 years of age, a statement of transition service needs that focus on the student's existing program or courses must be written; beginning when the student is 16 years of age, a plan for specific transition services including interagency responsibilities must be created; and beginning at least one year before the student reaches the age of majority, she or he must be informed of her or his rights.
  • Paraprofessionals must be appropriately prepared and supervised in accordance with state law, regulation, or written policy.

(Adapted from Ysseldyke, Algozzine, & Thurlow, 2000, pp. 58-60)

Implications for Parents, Students, and Families

The IDEA amendments strongly recognize parents and families as collaborative partners throughout the special education process. Parents and families will continue to need access to information about their rights and responsibilities, as well as access to support and advocacy groups. Parents, families and students will need to be provided information on the current changes to the law. The IDEA Amendments promote a more collaborative approach to solving differences, while retaining due process rights by providing voluntary mediation. Changes concerning transition planning and majority age responsibilities are also important considerations for students with disabilities.

Implications for Teachers and Professionals

PL 105-17 clearly underscores the importance of access to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities. To effectively address this mandate, general and special education professionals will need to be knowledgeable about: (a) the general education curriculum, (b) the unique strengths and needs of individual students with disabilities, and (c) how general education standards, goals, and curricula apply to individual students. In order to accomplish these aims collaboration and communication among professionals is needed.

Participation in the IEP planning is required for general educators and should be supported by other professionals involved in this important process. Special education professionals will also need to gain information about state and district-wide assessments and participate in discussions related to the appropriateness for individual students with disabilities. Planning for appropriate assessment accommodations is also a responsibility for both general and special professionals. Finally, all school personnel will need to establish and implement effective proactive behavioral interventions for all students, including those with disabilities.

Resources and References on the IDEA Amendments

Online Documents on the IDEA Amendments

  • Knoblauch, B., & McLane, K. (1999). An overview of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (PL 105-17): Update 1999. ERIC EC Digest # 576. The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children.

  • National Information Center on Handicapped Children and Youth.(1998).
    The IDEA Amendments of 1997. NICHCY News Digest 26 (Revised Edition).
    Washington, DC: National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.

  • U. S. Department of Education (1997). IDEA '97 The Law. This site provides access to PL 105-17 in several formats including Word Perfect and Adobe Acrobat PDF formats.

  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (1998). Twentieth Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Web Resources on The IDEA Amendments of 1997

  • IDEA Special Education: Net Links. This network of sites provides a resource link devoted to special education. An IDEA netlink is available from this resource containing several resources about IDEA, including overviews of IDEA and other explanatory information.

  • The Council for Exceptional Children. Links to the Laws. This site includes links to both the IDEA Amendments and Federal Regulations.

  • The Federal Resource Center of Special Education: IDEA 1997.

  • Ideapractices. This website developed by Education Development with collaboration and support from the Council for Exceptional Children is intended to provide parents, professional service providers, and administrators with access to information on IDEA changes, concerns, and effective implementation strategies. Programs and resources on IDEA are available, as well as access to the law and regulations. The site also provides a number of relevant links to IDEA related information.

  • National Information Center for Handicapped Children and Youth: Office of Special Education Programs' IDEA Training Package. This site provides an on-line training package. Information on the legal requirements and provisions of the IDEA Amendments, including background information, resources, and training scripts. Text only and Adobe Acrobat PDF files are provided.

  • Office of Special Education Programs. IDEA '97 Regulations. This site provides on-line access to the revised versions of the Regulations Index, published on June 24, 1999 in the Federal Register. Both HTML and PDF formats can be found at this site.

Print Resources on The IDEA Amendments of 1997

Sorenson, B. (1999). Readings on the IDEA Amendments of 1997. ERIC EC Minibib EB25. The Eric Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children.

Turnbull, H. R. III, & Turnbull, A. P. (1998). Free appropriate public education: The law and children with disabilities (5th ed.). Denver, Love Publishing Company.

Ysseldyke, J. E., Algozzine, B., & Thurlow, M. (2000). Critical issues in special education (3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.