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School Law Guide: Research Problem #3

Research Problem #3

A small school in rural Missouri has recently acquired a new 5th grade student, Jane Doe. Doe is both mentally and physically handicapped. She requires a self-powered wheel chair to get around, and is far behind her peers academically. Her parents moved away from the big city and out into rural Missouri, believing the laid back lifestyle and fresh air would help Doe’s physical condition. Doe has numerous neurological disorders which impact her both physically and mentally. Her condition improves or worsens based on stress and other environmental factors. While not scientifically proven, Doe’s condition usually gets worse around large groups of people. Doe functions at a higher level when she is with a small group of people that she knows.

The school Doe is moving into, ABC Elementary, has had financial issues for the last decade. They have merged the town’s two elementary schools in order to save money. ABC Elementary is in threat of being closed down, which would result in the students merging into the high school. The middle school and high school are already in the same building for financial reasons. It is not uncommon for rural schools to have grades K-12 all in one building to save on infrastructure costs. ABC Elementary is worried that accommodating Doe is going to financially ruin the school, and force them to close down and merge with the high school.

With the above information in mind, what kind of accommodations is the school required to make? Is there any way the school can avoid making these accommodations? What other practical suggestions do you have to solve this problem?

Research Strategy

When looking at this problem you should see that this is a special education issue. While the food allergy was also a special education issue in part, this problem is a classic example of special education. Special education is a big area within education law and is growing rapidly. There are vast amounts of funding regulations in the special education field. As with most research problems, consulting secondary sources on the topic is the best place to start.

This guide provides multiple resources that are devoted solely to special education law issues. Within these resources you will find ADA and other federal statutory requirements relevant to the issue at hand. While these resources will give you a great start, they may not provide specifics on exactly how far the school district must go to accommodate the child, especially considering the school’s financial situation. Case law research would need to be done after exhausting secondary resources. The Bender Treatise on Lexis has a chapter on Funding, Support and Finances of Education. That chapter, which is chapter 5, along with chapter 8, titled The Student-Educational Institution Relationship, can provide insight to answering this question. While the Bender Treatise will be helpful, other secondary resources that focus specifically on special education and funding, will likely be more beneficial.