Special ed services pit parents against schools

Before 1975 and the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools often denied enrollment to those with serious behavioral disorders or assigned them to segregated facilities.  But IDEA required mainstreaming, which meant putting them in the least-restrictive appropriate setting.  Unfortunately, this has created the basis for disputes (“Families endure costly legal fights trying to get the right special education services,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 6).

These disagreements are called due process cases, and they are quite costly.  For example, the San Diego Unified School District last year paid $2 million to settle 128 such cases.  To reduce the cost, some districts use alternative dispute resolution.  There are no lawyers, just the district’s special education director, parents and a third-party arbitrator.

What I’ve never understood is why the federal government is not more fully responsible for the cost of special education.  After all, IDEA is a federal law. But like so many other issues in education, the states are being saddled with the bulk of the cost.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “Special ed services pit parents against schools”

  1. Not certain, but I think that federal law does not require that public school systems provide special ed services but rather provides that, if the schools accept federal ed $, then the schools must provide the special ed services. In other words, the schools can avoid providing the special ed services but only if they also decline the federal ed $.


  2. Labor Lawyer: I don’t know of any traditional public schools that refuse federal aid. Charter schools are reluctant to enroll special ed students even if their enrollment is accompanied by federal aid. Special ed teachers are in huge demand because of the challenges facing them in meeting the needs of these children.


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