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Arkansas State University

The Legal Aspects of Teaching Special Education

For educators looking to earn a Master of Science in Education for Special Education degree, it is vital to understand the laws that govern the field of special education. Special education laws ensure that children with disabilities have the right to fair and appropriate learning opportunities and can access resources, assessments and support within an institutional framework. The following are important legal aspects of teaching special education.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is an important piece of federal legislation that supports the rights of children with disabilities and their parents. In short, IDEA oversees the following:

    • Ensures that families have access to assessments to diagnose learning disabilities and determine the needs of each school-aged child, ages 3-22.
    • Requires that each child benefits from an Individualized Education Program (IEP) tailored to each child’s individual disability. The team that develops the IEP includes a special education teacher, general education teacher, representative from the school district and the child’s parents. Once a child reaches the age of 16, he or she can also participate in his or her own IEP development.
    • Clarifies a pathway for due process, in which parents of special needs children can access a third party mediator in the case of a dispute with the school district regarding a child’s education.

The right to learn alongside peers without disabilities

A foundational principle in IDEA is the right of special needs children to a “least-restrictive environment” or LRE. According to the LRE philosophy, a child’s support team determines where a child will spend his or her time during the school day as well as how the child will receive services. This learning environment should allow a child the maximum opportunity to learn alongside peers who do not have disabilities. This provision of IDEA mandates that a child may only be removed from general education classes if his or her school cannot satisfactorily educate him or her within such a setting.

Access to special tools and services to promote success

Special education law requires that special education children have access to supplementary aids and services, which support learning success. These supplementary aids and services include assessment modification, additional breaks within the school day, dictation software, computer devices, sign language, taped lectures, testing adaptations and much more. The goal of these tools is to compensate for a child’s learning challenges and set the stage for academic and social success within an appropriate and least restrictive learning environment.

Master’s programs in special education provide an overview of special education laws that govern programs and services for special needs children. It is imperative that special education teachers operate within appropriate legal conditions mandated by IDEA and other state and federal special education laws.

Learn about the A-State online MSE in Special Education program.


U.S. Department of Education’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Teachnology: Special Education Laws (U.S.)

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