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Back to School on Civil Rights 

VIII. Summary and Conclusions
This report assessed the monitoring, compliance, and enforcement activities of the Federal Government related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In the Department of Education (DoED), it considered the grant eligibility process, the state monitoring process up to the fall of 1998, and the federal complaint processes. Enforcement efforts were examined, as well as the role of the Department of Justice (DOJ). These activities were examined in terms of the outcomes they have produced and the compliance/enforcement authorities available under the law. Litigation challenging state monitoring systems was reviewed, as were the features of new state monitoring systems currently being developed as a result of litigation. Technical assistan ce/public information initiatives targeted to parents and families of children served by IDEA were highlighted. Views from IDEA stakeholders, including parents, advocates, and a state special education director, were offered.

The findings indicate that failure to ensure compliance with IDEA is widespread and persists over time. While noncompliance is regularly documented by the Department of Education, sanctions have rarely been used. Some authorities available for enforcement have not been utilized; others have been under-utilized. The very extensive state monitoring process used by DoED appeared to serve multiple purposes and be related more to program improvement than enforcing full compliance with the law. There was a lack of balance between these objectives, with continuing emphasis on program improvement, even in instances of persistent noncompliance. Parents expressed frustration and disappointment at the slow progress in the implementation of IDEA.

The recommendations in this report are intended to strengthen federal authority for enforcement, as well as federal systems for monitoring and ensuring compliance. They are intended to build upon what has been learned in 25 years of monitoring compliance and enforcement activity under IDEA, as well as what has been learned about effective enforcement mechanisms in our nation's other civil rights laws. Activities generated by the 1997 amendments to IDEA make this a unique opportunity to redesign some features of the monitoring/enforcement scheme to ensure that the new law produces the intended results for students with disabilities and their families.

To Consolidated List of Findings and Recommendations

To Endnotes 

To Index, IDEA Compliance Report

 

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