What Virginia Principals Should Know and Be Able to Do to Minimize Special Education Disputes Between Parents and Schools. A Delphi Study

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Virginia Tech


Today's schools face a mounting number of court cases resulting from conflicts between parents of children with special needs and educators tasked with meeting those needs (Osborne, 2009). Principals have the enormous responsibility to ensure appropriate services to educate students with disabilities and, as special education leaders, require a skill set that includes knowledge of current laws, litigation, student learning needs, and how to support parents' decision making rights and responsibilities. A gap is evident between what principals know about special education leadership and case law and what principals are doing in the field.

The purpose of this study was to identify effective actions and behaviors that support Virginia principals' leadership in special education decision making. More specifically, the study examined what can be done to minimize special education disputes between parents and schools and identify principals' skill sets to minimize special education disputes. Two concurrent Delphi studies were conducted with 16 member panels; stakeholders with familial responsibilities to children with disabilities and professional experts with responsibility to special education compliance participated. A final round exchanged findings between the panels. The study identified a list of best practices for Virginia school principals to support special education leadership and decision making.



due process, FAPE, IDEA, mediation, procedural safeguards