Handful Of States Account For Most IDEA Court Decisions
Special education disputes are far more likely to be litigated in some states than others, with a new report finding that just 10 states account for nearly two thirds of all court decisions.
Between 1979 and 2013, there were over 5,000 court decisions nationwide related to legal questions under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, according to an analysis published recently in the Journal of Special Education Leadership.
Nearly 600 of those decisions came out of New York, while Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. each accounted for about 500 decisions.
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Rounding out the top 10 states on the list are California, Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii, Texas, Connecticut and Virginia, the study found.
Meanwhile, the states at the bottom of the list — North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Montana — saw less than 10 court decisions apiece related to IDEA over more than three decades.
For the analysis, Tessie Rose Bailey, a special education professor at Montana State University Billings, and Perry Zirkel, a professor of education and law at Lehigh University, assessed the number of court decisions across the country over the 34-year period by searching an electronic database of special education case law alongside enrollment data from the U.S. Department of Education.
When the researchers factored for the number of students with disabilities in each state, they found that some jurisdictions — notably Washington, D.C. and Hawaii — had significantly more litigation per capita than others. At the same time, some high enrollment states like Florida and Texas had proportionately fewer court decisions.
“Relatively few states account for most of the litigation, creating in effect ‘two worlds’ of special education litigation,” Zirkel told Disability Scoop. “The variation among and within states is a much more complicated matter involving various factors, including the local culture in terms of litigiousness, availability of parent attorneys, quality of the school programs and receptivity of hearing officers and courts in each jurisdiction.”