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Special Education  

Last Updated: Jan 26, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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This research guide is designed for law students interested in learning more about special education law.

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Federal Agencies

  • Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
    The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Education. OSERS provides support to parents and individuals, school districts, and states in three main areas: Special Education, Vocation Rehabilitation and Research.

  • Office of Special Education (OSEP)
    The Office of Special Education is a branch the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. This office is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21 by providing leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts.


In addition to these general sources, advocacy sites can be found for various disabilities such as Autism Speaks, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the National Resource Center for ADHD.

  • International Association of Special Education
    Dedicated to improving the quality of life and service delivery for all individuals identified as having special needs.
  • National Center for Special Education Research
    Sponsors a comprehensive program of special education research designed to expand the knowledge and understanding of infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities.
  • The Advocacy Institute
    The Advocacy Institute is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to the development of products, projects and services that work to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
  • Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocate
    The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA) is an independent, nonprofit, ยง501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization of attorneys, advocates and parents. Our primary mission is to secure high quality educational services for children with disabilities.
  • Wrightslaw
    A leading website on special education law and advocacy. It provides a comprehensive review of the IDEA, relevant case law and provides a myriad of other special education resources,including a newsletter and blog.

Key Terms

Due Process Hearing –This is a court-like review process governed by administrative laws. A due process hearing is one of the administrative remedies available to parents and school districts to resolve special education disputes. Hearings can be held on behalf of one student or may involve others, as in a class action. The due process hearing is presided over by a hearing officer whose decisions have the effect of law and are binding upon the parties participating in the hearing.

EAHCA – The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, enacted in 1975, required all public schools to accept federal funds to provide equal access to education for children with physical and mental disabilities.

FAPE – A Free Appropriate Public Education is the mandated right that special education students are educated in the way best suited to help them learn and excel.

IEP – An Individualized Education Plan describes the goals set for a special education student by his or her Child Study Team, during the school year, as well as any special support needed to help the student achieve these goals.

IDEA – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was the successor legislation to the EAHCA and mandates Public Schools to provide special education students with a free appropriate education in the least restrictive environment to help these students meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.

IDEIA – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, reauthorized and amended the IDEA in 2004.

Inclusion – Means that students with disabilities are supported in chronologically age-appropriate general education classes in their home schools and receive the specialized instruction customized in their IEP’s within the context of the core curriculum and general class activities.

LRE – The Least Restrictive Environment means that a student who has a disability should have the opportunity to be educated with his or her non-disabled peers, to the greatest extent possible.

Pro Se Legal Representation – Refers to the instance of a person representing himself or herself without a lawyer in a court proceeding.

Related Service – Defined by the regulations to the 1997 IDEA as "transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education"

Special Education – Educational programs and assignments including, special classes and programs or services designed to develop the educational potential of children with disabilities.



    This guide is based on a research guide prepared by law student, Laurice Rutledge

    Nothing in this guide should be understood as offering legal advice. Do not rely on the author's interpretation of cases and secondary sources. This guide is not comprehensive and is merely a compellation of what the author thought was the most important resources on the topic. This guide in not regularly updated. Remember to Sheperdize all cases to ensure that they are still good law before relying on them.


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