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 Ask the Attorney: Questions and Answers (back to Ask the Attorney)

Question: I am a parent of a child who has just been found eligible for special education services. When I talk with other parents of special education students and with school officials they are always talking about the "law and rules". What laws and rules are they referring to? How do I become familiar with them?

Answer:  See Part II Below; also see last week’s posting for PART I - OVERVIEW



Federal – the US Constitution grants to all public students and staff (with some limitations) a number of fundamental civil rights.  Those rights are contained in the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution (e.g. the Bill of Rights).  Such rights address free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom to free from illegal searches, a right to due process of law, etc.  In addition, as noted above, Congress creates laws to spend taxpayer monies or to regulate public conduct. 


Once passed by Congress (and signed by the President) public laws are codified (organized) according to topic into one of the sections of the United States Code (U.S.C.).  For example, IDEA, which is Public Law 105-37 (105th law – 37th Congress) is “codified” and found at 20 U.S.C., Chapter 33 (Education) starting at Section 1400 and continuing for some 50 sections.  In legal terms, the way of referencing where the exact language that Congress passed can be found is called its “legal cite”.  For example, the section of IDEA that details the due process rights (procedural safeguards) can be found at 20 U.S.C. 1415.  Once a law is codified and placed in the United States Code, it is generally referred to as a statute.


Once passed by Congress and signed into law, the federal Department of Education is assigned the responsibility of creating regulations (rules) to uniformly apply the new law in all states.  To do this, the Department drafts proposed regulations and then holds public hearings to solicit public comments.  Once the final regulations are adopted, they have the force of law and all public schools must follow them.  Those explanatory regulations are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (cited as C.F.R.).  For example, regulations interpreting IDEA are found at 34 CFR Part 300.  .


NOTE:  I recommend that any parent of a disabled student read Appendix A of the regulations as it contains a set of commonly asked questions and answers that address some common issues that frequently arise.


Hope this helps your understanding;


John Brower, JD

Education Law Center, PLLC


NOTE:  Next week, Part III – State Role

Education Law Center, PLLC 810-227-9850 

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