Who Will Enforce the Special Ed Law?

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As a parent and an educator, I know that accountability is lacking in most schools. Children with disabilities suffer when they don’t have good IEPs, or their IEPs are not implemented, or they don’t have good transition plans that prepare them for life after school.

Unfortunately, the law is available but it’s not implemented to meets the kids’ need.  Most IEPs are done for compliance, then filed away, and are never used. When will there be a law that requires  meaningful outcomes – like job placement, educational opportunities?

You believe there should be a law that requires schools to provide quality special education services to children, services that are designed to meet the children’s unique needs.

You object to the fact that the law is not enforced, that parents appear to be uninvolved (or not encouraged to be involved), that schools go through the motions in writing IEPs, and that IEPs are not implemented or are implemented sporadically.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act includes many powerful requirements. But when schools and school districts skirt their responsibilities, or deny that they have these responsibilities, it is difficult for individual parents or teachers to change the situation.

I agree with you.

In 2000, the National Council for Disability (NCD) published “Back to School on Civil Rights,” a report about compliance with the IDEA.

NCD found that no state was in compliance with the law, and that the U.S. Department of Education did not require states to comply with the law. USDOE kept sending checks to states, regardless of whether the state was in compliance with the law.

NCD also found that parents were the main enforcers of the law, and recommended that enforcement be given to the U.S. Department of Justice.

I agree that the IDEA is a good law that is not enforced.

You find good laws that are not enforced at every level of government, from speeding citations to companies that break environmental laws. What turns things around is getting a group of people together, people who see the problems and are willing to work to change the system.

Here is a short summary of NCD’s findings.


“Overall, the National Council on Disability (NCD) finds that the referral efforts to enforce the law over several Administrations have been inconsistent, ineffective, and lacking any real teeth.”

The report released … before Congressional Leaders, Congressional staff, National Leaders, Advocates and Students confirms what parents across our nation already know first hand.

For example, parents of a 10 year old from the state of Maryland were told that “IDEA didn’t apply to this child.” Here is a young child who had suffered multiple strokes. She uses an electric wheelchair, assistive technology to communicate; needs assistance to get her through her day at school and IDEA does not apply? Yet, her parents have to fight to get the supports their daughter needed to become a productive citizen as she works towards her educational goals.

The full text of Back to School on Civil Rights in on the Wrightslaw site, here:

I don’t think the solution to these problems is to get rid of the law, or pretend that it does not contain specific requirements.

I think the solution is to get a small, dedicated group of parents (consumers) together to educate and lobby their school board members, state legislators, and members of Congress.

This is how you begin to change systems so they meet the needs of people they are supposed to serve.

  1. I find it odd that when a person parks in a parking spot that is designated for disable use only, a police officer can come by and issue a citation. No disabled person needs to hire an attorney to correct the situation. Why can’t it be like that when a school district breaks the law? Why is it that the parents are left to be the enforcers?

  2. In our state, there are advocates from the State Department of Education who the parents can call concerning their rights. These advocates will even attend the IEP meetings with the parent if necessary.

  3. IDEA is a movement, a movement toward more equitable education for all children. IDEA began as a grassroots parent movement. We have always been and continue to be at the forefront of that movement. We are the “Special Ed Police.” Special Education has come a long way over the last 35 years. It will take parents continuing to push the envelope on behalf of our kids, for us to push forward. We must continue to educate our schools, communities and our politicians.
    For more on the history of the movement read here: http://www.catsedu.org/earlychildhoodteaching/36.pdf

    Remember this, when we advocate for and educate others on behalf of our own children, we are kicking the door open for someone elses!

    I am honored to work with the families I work with and know they are doing those that came before us PROUD!

  4. I think there should be a cap placed on the amount of money a school district can pay in attorney fees per child.

    Once this cap is reached, the tax payer funded legal services could be made a part of the child’s IEP. Including the legal expenses as a related services would require that the legal services offer an educational benefit to the child.

    The IDEA was created to offer equal opportunities to all children. It was never intended to guarantee wealth to attorneys who represent school districts.

  5. I am the parent of an amazing 14 year old young man with cerebral palsy who has a passion for his education. Angel my son started school at age of 3, since then despite his orthopedic and vision impairments he has managed to succeed in mainstream education. Getting to where he is now the 9th grade has been the most painful experience he has ever had to face. He calls it “His Educational War” No pain compares to what he has had to endure in trying to receive a free appropriate public education. Recently the Educational System pushed him to the edge, causing for him say “I give up, I am going to kill myself”. 3 m. later he has recovered, but is not in school. We have had 2 Hearings 1st one we prevailed, 2nd just ended on 3/2 decision pending. Now the School Dist. has filled a 3rd one. I agree with Pam we need to take action.

  6. I wish we could get consumer protection for educational services….that is essentially what we are talking about.

  7. I feel like my child has a 504 that has been written and filed for the sake of compliance. He has problems with adhd and fine motor skills. I am really against the latest teacher action because the class did a book project for publication. The teacher had another student write my son’s prose because she was in a rush to finish the book. My son now thinks it is fine for another person to do his work. I want my son to learn he can do this with extra time and be proud of his work. The school will not support me in this and the book goes for publication for all to see.

  8. I just received the decision from the hearing officer, it’s been a year since I filed my child’s due process. I lost. I represented her myself, after every attorney told me, I would never win. I just wish someone would tell me, I’m wrong.

  9. When my son’s school here in Kansas doesn’t want to comply with Special Ed laws, I e-mail or call the attorney for the Kansas State Dept. of Education. He helps me with the situation and when the school knows I’ve contacted him, they always comply because they know I have the law on my side.

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