The evolution of case law that led to the least restrictive environment provision in the Individuals with Disabilities Act

Susan Price Zenick, Tennessee State University


The extension of the principle of egalitarianism to the education of disabled students was the major legal development in the field of education over the past thirty years. The passage of special education laws reinforced the belief that disabled students were entitled to a free appropriate public education. This study sought to examine the important factors required for an understand of where the United States and more specifically the State of Tennessee stand with respect to the provision of education and services to the disabled. Those factors were: (a) the major sources of law within our societal framework and their application in the field of education, (b) the cycle of litigation-legislation-litigation that is characteristic of our legal system, and (c) laws pertinent to the education of the disabled. In addition, the history of our society's approach to the disabled, as well as certain movements that took place within the political arena, were examined. This study sought to explore the educational mandates for free appropriate public education for the disabled within these contexts in order to further the understanding and promote the ultimate goal of full inclusion of the disabled into our society. This research examined issues related to the provision of educational and related services to students with disabilities as required by the Individual With Disabilities Education Act of 1990. Legal decisions from seven Tennessee cases that specifically addressed placement of students in the least restrictive environment were compared to decisions rendered in five federal landmark cases. In each of the cases reviewed, the Tennessee legal decisions were consistent with the landmark cases. As a result of this analysis, it is recommended that appropriate levels of funding be provided for staff development, monitoring for compliance, and merging special and regular education teacher training course work.

Subject Area

School administration|Special education|Public administration

Recommended Citation

Susan Price Zenick, "The evolution of case law that led to the least restrictive environment provision in the Individuals with Disabilities Act" (1999). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI9943853.