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American Special Education: Laws to Minimize Deputes Between Families And Schools

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With the influence of globalization, except for educational efficiency, filed of education should also focus on the core value of social equity and justice. In the 1970s, various advanced European and American countries have advocated the code concept of social value, such as “righteousness”, “equality” and so on. In order to pursue an equal code value, educational polities among every country and enactments of related laws have been affected, education policy began to slowly shift geared to the needs of vulnerable groups, education philosophy have been set up, including “educational without limit”, “special education”. “no refuse” and “individual learning” for people with disabilities. In this content, countries and other regions have enacted a series of special education laws and policies for the physically and mentally handicapped in order to meet the educational equity, which promotes the development of segregated special education and even the integrated education.

As for the implementation of special education law in the United States, from 1970s to the second millennium, there are two main periods:

The first period is 1970s to1980s. Until the 1970s, according to the previous case, the court would support the state’s education administrative authorities and the public school to close the school gate to children who were disable and despoil their rights to accept education. But by the civil rights movement and equal educational opportunity movement of 1950s and 1960s, influenced all kinds of organizations who were made up of parents of children with physically and mentally disabilities. Under the support of domestic professional educational apartments, political action has been taken, including legal proceedings and lobbying by members of Congress. Finally, Congress passed The Educational for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EAHCA), referred to as “public law 94-192”. With the continuous promotion of “Justice”, “Equality” and other core social values, The Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986 (HCPA), referred to as “public law 94-142” and The Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities Act of 1986, referred to as “public law 99-457” have also been successively passed. Among these laws, EAHCA was an important milestone in the development of special education in the United Stated. The public law abolished the previous system of denying the admission of students with physical and mental disabilities from 3 to 21 years old to public school, so that these children and adolescents can receive free appropriate public education (FAPE). There are important philosophies as follows: ‘Zero rejection’, ‘Free and Appropriate Education’, ‘Non-Discriminatory Assessment’, ‘Minimum Restrictive Environment’, ‘Parent and Student Participation’ and ‘Individual Education Program’ (IEP) for each student. Public law 99-372 emphasizes that parents or guardians of students with physical and mental disabilities have the right to free judgment if they bring a judicial action under public law 94-142 and win, and the losing party shall compensate the parents with a reasonable attorney’s fee. In addition to ‘public law 99-457’ is also very profound influence on American special education policy, because the law in addition to strengthen the safeguard children with disabilities, also mentioned for the first time for the development of infants and young children with disabilities protection policies, including about the age of 0 to 3 infants and young children with disabilities between providing early intervention services, and special education for preschool children with disabilities to provide support services.

The second period is from 1990s to the 2000s. In1990, the public law 94-142 was amended and renamed as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it also known as “public law 101-478”. Bill of this IDEA including the concept of transition services and asked to assist disable students from schools to other schools or engage in other activities, provide effective transition assistance mechanism, interdisciplinary, cross unit cooperation and services for pre-school disabled children and their families. The IDEA Act was amended in 1997 as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (IDEA ’97) and amended in 2004 as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 2004(The IDEA of ’04). This legislation in addition to stress and include that: autism, visual, impairment, hearing impairment, mental retardation, physical disability, traumatic brain injury and other physical disability and other kinds of children with special education need to be protected. The law also stressed that the state should provide occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychological evaluation and therapy, and other health care services to 0 to 3 years old infants and young children. Special education and complete assessment should be provided to 3 to 21 years old children and teenagers.

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The IDEA act stipulated that special education should follow six principles:

  1. ‘No exclusion principle’, which referred to schools should guarantee that disabled students have the same right to receive education as ordinary students, and prohibit excluding disabled students from public education;
  2. ‘Non-discrimination assessment principle’,
  3. ‘Appropriate education principle’, which means that schools should provide appropriate individualized education and corresponding IEP for each special student aged 3 to 21, and develop individualized family service plan and related services for disabled children aged 0 to 2;
  4. Principle of least restrictive environment’,
  5. Principle of due process’,
  6. ‘Principle of parent-student participation’.

These three principles of ‘no rejection’, ‘the principle of appropriate education’ and ‘the principle of minimum limit environment’ also called ‘principles’, which requires schools as far as possible will be special education with other ordinary students in class, only when all kinds of help and service for the students cannot meet their needs, schools only to a certain degree of separation and education will separate education as far as possible to reduce to a minimum extent.

In addition, the United States in 2001, with strong emphasis on education of disadvantaged students fair to conclude ‘Don’t Let Any Child Left Behind Act’ (NCLB), the bill details to conclude about the teaching method, teachers in special education equipment, students’ evaluation of the guidance, to ensure the poor students, special students have equal chance to receive education. Under the basis of NCLB in 2015, to the weak, poor, disabled students, they can be provided better support, the federal government to conclude ‘Let Each Student Success Bill’ (ESSA), inheriting the spirit of the NCLB act that requires equal distribution of educational resources. This also makes amendments to ensure that poor, disadvantaged and special students receive more equitable education and resources.

There are various laws to stipulate that public schools should meet the individual needs of students with physical and mental disabilities, but parents and districts often hold different opinions about what those services should be provided to students or whether students need them or not. Each year, school districts across California pay parents and lawyers millions of dollars to settle thousands of such disputes, which known as due process cases. The number of due process case has been rising in recent years, making the tight budget of school district even worse. Sweetwater, the county’s second-largest school district, paid $400,000 to settle 31 cases, according to district records. And Poway Unified, the county’s third-largest district, paid $1.1 million to settle 25 cases, according to documents obtained through a public record request. Much of the settlement money went to reimburse parents for past or future special education services, services that parents say should have been covered by the district. Through due process cases, school districts have agreed to pay for tutoring, private assessments of students and even private school tuition and transportation for students with disabilities. However, due process is controversial among families and school districts. Parents with disable children who do not receive appropriate service believe that lawsuit is the only way to deal with resource imbalance problems and being refused to evaluated for their children. A lack of funding for services and a lack of training by schools play a big role in current situation. Whereas, no matter how dissatisfying the situation is, regions are trying their best to improve: according to San Diego Unified Special Education Executive Director Sarah Ott:” Poway Unified has been working to decrease due process cases by resolving them with a process called alternative dispute resolution. There are no lawyers involved in alternative dispute resolution, just the district’s special education director, parents and a third-party arbitrator to help facilitate.”

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American Special Education: Laws to Minimize Deputes Between Families And Schools. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from
“American Special Education: Laws to Minimize Deputes Between Families And Schools.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022,
American Special Education: Laws to Minimize Deputes Between Families And Schools. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Sept. 2023].
American Special Education: Laws to Minimize Deputes Between Families And Schools [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 17 [cited 2023 Sept 21]. Available from:
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