Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law, all states must provide a free appropriate public education (commonly abbreviated as “FAPE”) to ALL students in their state (even students that have been expelled). States are also required to provide FAPE to all children with disabilities in their state.

The rules require that children with disabilities from age 3 to 21 all receive FAPE, regardless of whether they are advancing from grade to grade or are held back by school officials. There are some exceptions to the 3 to 21 requirement however. If, under state law or a state’s usual practice, the state does not provide education to children from 3-5 or 18-21 then the state will be exempted from providing education to children in those age ranges. However, a state must provide FAPE to all children from 6-17.

Once children graduate from high school with a regular diploma the state doesn’t have to provide them with a FAPE anymore, even if they still need services for their disability or additional educational services. Unfortunately, once a child turns 21 or graduates high school, the state no longer needs to provide them education or services regardless of their need.