Public school administrators' knowledge of special education law

Lisa Riley Robertson, Florida International University


The purpose of this study was to assess the knowledge of public school administrators with respect to special education (ESE) law. The study used a sample of 220 public school administrators. A survey instrument was developed consisting of 19 demographic questions and 20 situational scenarios. The scenarios were based on ESE issues of discipline, due process (including IEP procedures), identification, evaluation, placement, and related services. The participants had to decide whether a violation of the ESE child's rights had occurred by marking: (a) Yes, (b) No, or (c) Undecided. An analysis of the scores and demographic information was done using a two-way analysis of variance, chi-square, and crosstabs after a 77% survey response rate. Research questions addressed the administrators' overall level of knowledge. Comparisons were made between principals and assistant principals and differences between the levels of schooling. Exploratory questions were concerned with ESE issues deemed problematic by administrators, effects of demographic variables on survey scores, and the listing of resources utilized by administrators to access ESE information. The study revealed: (a) a significant difference was found when comparing the number of ESE courses taken and the score on the survey, (b) the top five resources of ESE information were the region office, school ESE department chairs, ESE teachers, county workshops, and county inservices, (c) problematic areas included discipline, evaluation procedures, placement issues, and IEP due process concerns, (d) administrators as a group did not exhibit a satisfactory knowledge of ESE law with a mean score of 12 correct and 74% of responding administrators scoring in the unsatisfactory level (below 70%), (e) across school levels, elementary administrators scored significantly higher than high school administrators, and (f) a significant implication that assistant principals consistently scored higher than principals on each scenario with a significant difference at the high school level. The study reveals a vital need for administrators to receive additional preparation in order to possess a basic understanding of ESE school law and how it impacts their respective schools and school districts so that they might meet professional obligations and protect the rights of all individuals involved. Recommendations for this additional administrative preparation and further research topics were discussed.

Subject Area

Special education|School administration|Law

Recommended Citation

Robertson, Lisa Riley, "Public school administrators' knowledge of special education law" (1996). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9625358.