banner ad
Experts Logo


Disability Law Briefing

As originally published by Learning and Behavior Problems of Children and Youth with Disabilities, June 1997.

By: Dr. Edward Dragan
Tel: (609) 397-8989
Email Dr. Dragan

View Profile on

Abstract: This special paper introduces the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, describes the school district's obligation to advocate for students with disabilities, reviews student rights created by the law, defines key terms, and takes the reader, step by step, through the procedural protections provided by the regulations.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) imposes on a board of education, among other things, the obligation to make every reasonable attempt to enter into a "partnership" with the parents of a student with disabilities to educate the student. For the school district, this partnership involves a complicated set of legal obligations which require it to Iliaintain a continuing relationship with the parents throughout the student's school career. Absent a significant event, such as the student's family moving out of the district, the IDEA forges an "educational marriage" between a district and the parents of a student with disabilities--without the possibility of divorce! The parties must make every reasonable attempt to maintain that relationship, even if they have disputes and some of those disputes require three-party resolution such as mediation.

District's Obligation to Advocate For Students With Disabilities

The district not only is legally obligated to affirmatively find students who possibly have disabilities, it also must evaluate those students to determine whether they do have disabilities and, if so, establish their areas of need. If a student is found to have a disability, the district must make evelY reasonable effort to meaningfully involve the parents in the cooperative development of an IEP to establish, among other things, the programs and services neceSSaIY to meet that student's unique needs.

By placing a variety of affirmative obligations on the district, the IDEA and the regulations promulgated pursuant to it have created a dual advocacy law. Under this law, both district staff and parents have the right and corresponding responsibility to advocate on behalf of the student with disabilities with regard to whether the student should be determined to be eligible for special education programs and services and, if so, what those programs and services should be. Sometimes, districts and their staff fail to recognize their affirmative obligations under the IDEA or, if they do recognize them, fail to act on them.


Historical Framework of the IDEA

The IDEA was an attempt to codify the judicial decisions of Pensylvania Association for Retarded Children v. Commonwealth and Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia. Both cases held that children with disabilities were to be given access to adequate, publicly supported education and struck down local statutes and regulations that expressly excluded disabled individuals from education and training programs.

In 1966, Congress first addressed the lack of educational services for children with disabilities when it amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to establish a grant program for the purpose of assisting the States in the initiation, expansion, and improvement of programs and projects ... for the education of handicapped children.

In 1970, the program was repealed by the Education for the Handicapped Act, Part B of which established a grant program similar in purpose to the repealed legislation.

In 1974 federal funding was greatly increased for education of the disabled. For the first time, the law required recipient states to adopt a goal of providing full educational opportunities to all handicapped children. A year of study produced the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.

Rights Created by the IDEA

. . .Continue to read rest of article (PDF).

Dr. Edward Dragan, provides education expert consultation for high-profile and complicated cases. As an educator and administrator, he has more than 35 years' experience as a teacher, principal, superintendent and director of special education. He also has served as a state department of education official.

©Copyright - All Rights Reserved


Related articles


11/2/2018· Education & Schools

School Liability Expert: Is It Bullying or Conflict

By: Dr. Edward Dragan

Schools, including public, private, and charter K-12 schools, and colleges and universities, have a responsibility to protect students from physical and emotional harm. Harm that creates a climate of fear can interfere with a student's education, leading to a range of outcomes from failing courses to, in the worst case, suicide. Properly identifying, investigating, and handling school bullying, harassment, and intimidation claims can help school administrators protect children and avoid costly litigation.


4/4/2017· Education & Schools

Post-Election Hostile School Environment: Protecting Students from Bullying and Harassment

By: Dr. Edward Dragan

Schools, including K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, have a responsibility to protect their students from harm. Harm includes the inability to benefit fully from education as a result of being in a hostile school environment. The politically motivated rhetoric and actions seen in schools during and after the presidential campaign can create a hostile school environment for which schools can be held responsible.


9/19/2018· Education & Schools

Student Safety and School Liability Involving School Police and Security Guards

By: Dr. Edward Dragan

Parents send their children to school expecting that their kids will be safe. The parents trust that the school's staff will act in their place and look out for their children's welfare in the same way they would. The presence of security guards, school police, or resource officers at the school may even strengthen their trust, but this can be a false sense of safety. Just because guards and school police officers wear a uniform does not always mean additional protection for students. Reviewing and assessing the potential for harm to students and others on school grounds and at school-sponsored events requires careful consideration and proactive initiative to keep students safe, even when the presence of a security guard or school police officer may provide a veneer of safety. Inadequately screening, training, and supervising security guards and school police officers; failing to provide guards and officers with clear instructions for handling special circumstances known to the school; and inappropriately delegating the responsibility for keeping children safe can all be linked to student injury or death.

; broker Movie Ad

Follow us

linkedin logo youtube logo rss feed logo