Sources of Legal Authority For Special Education*

(Listed in Order of Supremacy)

Federal Law

U.S. Constitution

(e.g. Due Process Clauses)


IDEA (20 USC 1400 et seq.)

Section 504 (29 USC 794)

ADA and others

Case Law

Court Interpretations of U.S. Constitution, statutes or regulations

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals

U.S. District Courts

Federal Regulations

Code of Federal Regulations

34 CFR Part 300 et seq.for IDEA;

34 CFR Part 104 et seq. for Section 504

Federal Register

Other Federal Agency Guidance

(e.g. OSEP Letters, OCR Decisions)


State Law

State Constitution

(e.g. right to education, non-discrimination provisions)

State Statutes

(e.g. a state law against discrimination on the basis of disability)

State Case Law

Court interpretations of state constitution, statutes or regs.

State Appellate Level Court(s)

State Trial Level Courts

State Administrative Rules or Regulations

(e.g. those created by state’s department of education, office of special education)

There may also be letters of interpretation or rulings by a state agency

re: its rules or regulations

State Special Ed. Plan

Each state must make certain promises to receive federal sp. ed. funds.

May also wish to consult funding applications for other federal education programs.

Intermediate or Local Education Agency Plans

(See above)

Local School District Policies/Procedures

(e.g. for regular education student discipline)


* Sources of authority will vary depending upon the structure of your state and local governments, etc. However, the sources listed above may give you some ideas as you begin to list sources applicable to your client’s case.