Special Education: Legal and Ethical Issues


Free and appropriate public education means that the cost of education for students with a disability is to be catered for by the public. Parents, especially from poor families are relieved the burden associated with raising such kids by the government. By having an appropriate education, it means that the individualized education program has to be applied where education is tailored to meet the needs of the students with a disability. The public education system is to be used when addressing the educational needs of students with disabilities as a way of enhancing equity. Children with disabilities are therefore entitled to access education in public schools. The education should mold and prepare the child with any disability for postsecondary education or for the independence of the individual in the society.

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Law is a body of principles that regulate the conduct of individuals in society. It ensures that there is order and that all individual rights are protected. There is a law that governs the provision of special education in order to eliminate discrimination in public learning institutions against students with disabilities. Administrators, teachers, parents, and support staff need to be aware of the regulations that govern special education as laws call for ethical duties. The law requires that students with special needs should be incorporated in a school with provisions of services that meet their individual needs.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stipulates that for students to be classified in need of special education their performance must be negatively affected by health impairment. The health impairing conditions may include specific learning disability, which impairs learning, speaking, writing, and the ability to read. Another condition is autism spectrum disorder that affects a child’s behavior in communication or social skills.  Other conditions include emotional disturbance like anxiety or depression, visual impairment and orthopedic impairment, deafness and deaf-blindness, Down syndrome and intellectual disability, traumatizing brain injury, and multiple disabilities. Special needs students require the protection offered by the law so that learning institutions can provide individualized teaching techniques that can equip students with skills needed for all members of the society.

Legal Issues

The United States Constitution

Federal, state, and local legislation on education works with the guidelines of the framework developed by the Constitution of the United States. The constitution provides duties, powers, and rights of all citizens.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 

The Act highlights the legal rights of students with disabilities and seeks to eliminate chances for discrimination in a learning environment. IDEA provides that students with disabilities are eligible for appropriate educational services until the age of 21. Many states have a Parent Training and Information Centre (PTI) that provides information regarding the rights of children with disability to parents. The Act ensures that every state has sufficient funds to put up a Parent Training and Information Centre. The center provides parents with support information for any or specific disability issue. Parents can also get information about any form of assistance needed; be it legal information, medical assistance, or educational specialists in that field of disability. Some states have community centers that help poor families whose English is not their first language in understanding their rights and their role in their children’s education.

 Individualized Education Program (IEP) 

The program provides that special needs students have different disabilities hence the need for individualized and unique attention (Felix & Tymeson, 2016). For example, students with hearing issues will require a different education plan that required by a blind student. Teachers and parents need to come up with the program, as they understand the needs, strengths, weaknesses, and desired performance level for the child better. Caregivers should meet with teachers annually for assessment of the education program. The education plan should provide room for evaluation and measurement of set goals. The individualized education program gives parents a platform to raise legal issues pertaining to the welfare of the student.

 A Non-discriminatory Evaluation 

Assessment of students with disabilities should be objective. A blind student needs to be evaluated in a similar approach to his peers in order to have an equitable education system.

 Right to Due Process 

The law provides the steps to follow in case of disputes or complaints pertaining to the education of students with disabilities. There should be an evaluation of facts after a complaint has been lodged, with directions from a hearing officer who is to make a formal decision. For example, parents may develop fears that their student is discriminated against either in the learning process or in the evaluation criteria. Such fears should be addressed using the due process provided by law.

A Least Restrictive Environment 

The law provides that students with disabilities be given the best accommodation that would work to minimize their challenges. The law provides that children with disabilities be integrated with peers who do not receive special education (O’Laughlin, & Lindle, 2015). The provisions of IDEA are that a child with special needs should be integrated with kids in general education as much as possible. Deviations to the provision may only occur where the child’s disability is so severe and demands address in a special class or a special school where supplementary help is available.

The team of IEP, which includes teachers and parents, must collaborate to develop the best decision for a suitable LRE for a child. Examples of a least restrictive environment may, first, involve special needs children spending the entire learning day in a general education class where the teachers intervene through the provision of support needed. Second, the special need student may have to spend some parts of the day with students without disabilities and later the student is segregated in an individual class where they get individualized services. Third, students with similar disabilities may be put in a special education class where they get specialized attention. Inclusion has the effect of improving the social skills, behavioral, and development improvements for students with special needs, as well as, those without disabilities (Lieberman, Cavanaugh, Haegele, Aiello, & Wilson, 2017).

Inclusion of Parents  

The law provides the inclusion or involvement of custodians or guardians of students with disabilities in all matters pertaining to their welfare. Parents have the right to be notified of new policies that may affect their children. Policies may require the provision of learning equipment, which implies the need for parental inclusion in the formulation of such policies.

 Education for All Handicapped Children Act

The special education law was passed in 1975 to protect students with physical and mental disabilities. Following its implementation, public schools were mandated to create equal opportunities for all students regardless of their disability. The aim of the Act was to ensure availability and allocation of funds to federal schools that support the education for the disabled. The Act would ensure that all facilities required by the special students were available. All schools that access federal funds should exhibit fairness in service provided to the disabled in addition to meals.

 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The law requires that special needs students be in the least restrictive environment that allows them to access appropriate education. The law requires that they should also be provided with an opportunity to mingle with students without special needs.

 Elementary and Secondary Education Act

The law requires for student’s performance accountability by all schools with or without special need children. Schools should formulate assessments that test that students have acquired the necessary skills. Students are at liberty to move to other schools if the current institution does not meet their emotional, social, and academic needs as depicted by the progressive assessments.

 Students with Disabilities and Postsecondary School

Discrimination for students with disabilities either in elementary, middle, high schools, or universities is forbidden by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The law provides that at postsecondary level of education, the institution should provide flexible curriculum to the needy students and better housing that accommodates the special need students.

Ethical Issues

Professionals that educate or seek to assist students with disabilities should use dignified and respectful approach. They should expect them or challenge them to achieve better outcomes as per their assessed potential while adhering to cultural background. Educators and caregivers should at all times show professional competence and uprightness in their judgment in order to benefit students with disabilities, as well as, their families. Students with exceptionalities should be encouraged to participate in school and communal activities, which helps people to accept them and integrate with them in their lives. Professionals should seek to improve their skills by being active in issues that pertain to students with disabilities. The umbrella that governs such professions is a useful platform for knowledge and experience exchange. Teachers should always work with the government and advice it on the needed resources in order to better the learning of students with exceptionalities. Professionals should be at the forefront of ensuring the safety of students by protecting them from psychological stress and physical pain. They can ensure safety through mutual respect and sound relationships with their families where they can help in decision-making aimed at improving the welfare of children with exceptionalities.


The free and appropriate public education is suitable in addressing issues of equality in our society by ensuring access to education for low-income families with exceptional children free. Through the provision of appropriate education, children with disabilities are able to prepare for future life through the improvement of social skills and knowledge. Most of them are able to excel in extra-curricular events where they discover their talents and prove to the world that disability is different from inability.


Felix, M., & Tymeson, G. (2016). Individualized education program. Adapted physical education and sport, 79-99.

O’Laughlin, L., & Lindle, J. C. (2015). Principals as political agents in the implementation of IDEA’s least restrictive environment mandate. Educational Policy, 29(1), 140-161.

Lieberman, L. J., Cavanaugh, L., Haegele, J. A., Aiello, R., & Wilson, W. J. (2017). The Modified Physical Education Class: An Option for the Least Restrictive Environment. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 88(7), 10-16.

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