Vanderbilt Law Review


Joshua A. Wolfe

First Page



One issue that is consistently at the forefront of political debate in America is the educational system. The debate over education involves funding, accountability, and curriculum issues, among others. One education issue that does not receive as much attention as some of the more politically charged issues is special education.

The goal of the American public school system is to educate all children, but how should that goal be implemented with regard to learning-disabled children? How does the educational system meet the individualized needs of disabled students while ensuring that these students are not isolated from the rest of the student body? Congress attempted to address these problems with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA" of "the Act"). The Act sought to promote mainstreaming by promising augmented education funding to states that increased mainstreaming in their school systems.

Over the years the court system has had the unenviable task of interpreting Congress' intent in enacting the IDEA. This task is made more difficult because the Act itself has conflicting mandates and because the Supreme Court has provided little guidance. As discussed below, the courts' main problem has been trying to reconcile the Act's mandate that all students receive an individualized and appropriate education with its emphasis on mainstreaming those students with special needs to the greatest extent possible.

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