Disabled Education by
Publication Date: 2013-05-13
Enacted in1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act - now called theIndividuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides all children withthe right to a free and appropriate public education. On the face of it, theIDEA is a shining example of law's democratizing impulse. But is that reallythe case? In Disabled Education, Ruth Colker digs deep beneath theIDEA's surface and reveals that the IDEA contains flaws that were evident atthe time of its enactment that limit its effectiveness for poor and minoritychildren. Both anexpert in disability law and the mother of a child with a hearing impairment,Colker learned first-hand of the Act's limitations when she embarked on a legalbattle to persuade her son's school to accommodate his impairment. Colker wasable to devote the considerable resources of a middle-class lawyer to herstruggle and ultimately won, but she knew that the IDEA would not havebenefitted her son without her time-consuming and costly legal intervention.Her experience led her to investigate other cases, which confirmed hersuspicions that the IDEA best serves those with the resources to advocatestrongly for their children. The IDEAalso works only as well as the rest of the system does: struggling schools thatserve primarily poor students of color rarely have the funds to provideappropriate special education and related services to their students withdisabilities. Through a close examination of the historical evolution of theIDEA, the actual experiences of children who fought for their education incourt, and social science literature on the meaning of "learning disability,"Colker reveals the IDEA's shortcomings, but also suggests ways in whichresources might be allocated more evenly along class lines.