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Special Education Law: Introduction


Welcome to my Special Education Research Guide. This is intended to provide the basic foundation for Special Education Law and provide resources to continue your research needs. I have used secondary sources such as blogs, treatises, websites, and legal databases. I have also summarized two essential statutes the Individuals with Disability Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. I have used these laws to provide assistance for new attorneys who would like to challenge a district's decision regarding special education services.


This guide has been created by Brittain McClurg in support of Professor Diamond's Advanced Legal Research class for Fall 2017. The contents of this guide should not be taken as legal advice or as the work product of Mizzou Law librarians.

Research Strategy

Special Education Law can be very dense and difficult to navigate given that is generally an individualized process depending on each child's needs. The best way to begin researching an issue to obtain a general overview of the applicable federal law and then to assess each state's law to specifically apply it. Education is an area of law that is subject to regulations from the United States Department of Education as well as each state's education departments.


You should explore special education websites and blogs found under the Secondary Sources Tab. Many of these are written for parents of children with disabilities, which makes them friendly to lay people who lack total understanding of the law. Next, I would look to treatises, also found under the Secondary Sources Tab, to further develop your understanding of the applicable laws for the issue at hand. I highly recommend Education Law by James A. Rapp, which provides practical analysis of special education law.


Look to the specific statutes and regulations promulgated by the federal government. They are found under the IDEA Tab and the Section 504 Tab in this resource guide. Take note that federal regulations and statutes provide the bare minimum that states must provide to their special education students, but each state can promulgate regulations and statutes that provide additional resources or protections for special education students. It is essential that you look at the applicable state when assessing a legal question in the field of special education law.


Once you have identified the specific statutes and regulations involved, explore court precedent regarding the issue.  I would start by reading Endrew v. Douglas Cty Sch. Dist. which is a landmark decision handed down in March 2017, and it is found under the Endrew Tab. I also highly recommend (link found under Secondary Sources Tab) to find cases with similar facts and issues, which will be essential to how you present your case and advise your client.