Committee Chair

Roblyer, M.D.; Petzko, Vicki

Committee Member

Freeman, John; Lawson, Dan


Dept. of Education


College of Health, Education, and Professional Studies


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


This study focused on the problem of an increasing number of special education- related lawsuits against school districts. The purpose was to identify information in past special education due process cases and current school system practices that may help reduce or prevent a school system’s likelihood of facing potential litigation in special education. Research questions were: (1) What percentage of the collection of final orders (CFO) cases fall into each descriptor of the following categories: sex, disability type, school system size description, age, prevailing party, filing party, and issue s? (2) Are there noticeable differences between the CFO and the population at-large in any descriptor category, in terms of percentages of cases? (3) Are there any descriptor variables or combinations of variables that reliably predict an outcome in favor of the system in CFO cases? (4) Based on a content analysis of responses from special education directors, what are common themes of district-level practices that have been put into place to prevent cases from going to due process? A mixed-methods approach was used in this study to provide a more complete perspective on current conditions in special education litigation and strategies to prevent it. Quantitative methods were used to analyze characteristics of the CFO found at the Tennessee Department of Education website. First, frequencies and percentages were calculated for each descriptor obtained from the CFO. Percentages from the CFO were compared with the current special education population of Tennessee. A logistic regression was done to determine if any variables predicted an outcome in favor of the school system. Finally, Tennessee special education directors were interviewed, and their comments were analyzed to determine trends in perceptions. Findings showed that three disability types were over-represented in the CFO: mental-retardation, emotional disturbance, and autism. Two disability types were found to contribute to an outcome in favor of the school system, though results had low reliability for future prediction. Interviews of special education directors in Tennessee identified: issues involved in special education, disability types that present special challenges, and recommendations to help prevent future litigation. Recommendations to school systems are given based on these findings.


Ed. D.; A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Education.




Special education -- Law and legislation -- United States


Educational Leadership

Document Type

Doctoral dissertations




x, 106 leaves