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The Importance of Special Education Law and Ethics

A special education teacher works one-on-one with her studentIn addition to knowing the best teaching practices for their profession, special education teachers must also understand the legal rights of students and parents. Developing a deep knowledge of special education law and ethics is a critical part of the job.

Teachers can learn about both through professional development courses. Fresno Pacific University offers online courses for teachers in these critical areas, including Special Education Law and Ethics and Public Law, Private Schools & Special Education.

Both courses allow teachers to learn about legal rights involved in special education while earning professional development credits. A veteran teacher recently taking the public law course wrote: “If anyone wants to gain knowledge of all the ins and outs of special education, this is the course to take! Working in the special education field, I was amazed at some of the information I was unaware of prior to taking this course.”

The Importance of Special Education Law and Ethics

Special education teachers must know the many legal rights of students and parents and the wide variety of responsibilities teachers have toward both.

Laws also have become more complex. For example, both the federal government and individual states establish laws that govern special education. Also, the laws differ whether a teacher works for a private or a public school. 

Understanding the history of special education law also helps teachers realize how far their profession has come. Students in the Fresno Pacific University course study the history of ethical considerations in special education and social support services for persons with exceptionalities in the United States. They also analyze national and state laws and litigation relating to special education and individuals with special needs.

Standards for Professional Special Educators

In addition to federal and state laws, special education teachers also receive guidance on standards and ethics from two organizations: The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET).

The CEC offers professional, ethical principles, practice standards and professional policies that guide professional special educators. The CEC designs these standards to respect all individuals with exceptionalities and their families.

The CEC principles include:

  • Maintaining challenging expectations for individuals with exceptionalities to develop the highest possible learning outcomes and quality of life potential
  • Maintaining a high level of professional competence and integrity
  • Exercising professional judgment to benefit individuals with exceptionalities and their families
  • Promoting meaningful and inclusive participation of individuals with exceptionalities in their schools and communities
  • Practicing collegially with others who provide service to individuals with exceptionalities
  • Developing relationships with families based on mutual respect and involving them in educational decision-making.
  • Inform practice with evidence, data, research and professional knowledge
  • Protect and support the physical and psychological safety of individuals with exceptionalities
  • Not engaging or tolerating any practice that harms individuals with exceptionalities
  • Advocating for professional conditions and resources that improve learning outcomes
  • Improve the profession through active participation in professional organizations
  • Participate in the growth and dissemination of professional knowledge

The CEC calls upon special educators to work with these ethics, policies and standards and uphold laws, regulations and policies that influence professional practice. It also calls upon special education teachers to advocate for improvements in those areas.

NASET provides a Code of Ethics that include six main principles that call on special education teachers to:

  • Nurture the academic, psychological, physical and social potential of children with special needs
  • Apply professional knowledge to create a professional and supportive environment for children with special needs
  • Commit to their learning and professional development
  • Respect, support and collaborate with colleagues and other professionals in the interest of children with special needs
  • Collaborate with parents of children with special needs and community, building trust and respecting confidentiality
  • Advance the intellectual and ethical foundation of the learning community

Fresno Pacific University Special Education Law Courses

Both Fresno Pacific University special education law and ethics courses provide teachers with the knowledge to enhance their practice. Julie Lane, Ph.D., teaches the courses and has more than 25 years of special education experience in public, private and charter schools. She has worked as both a teacher and administrator.

In the Special Education Law and Ethics course, teachers develop an in-depth understanding of students’ and parents’ legal rights and responsibilities and examine the CEC Code of Ethics. They also decipher legal issues around:

  • Individualized Education Programs
  • Individual Transition Programs
  • Individualized Family Service Plans
  • Individualized Service Plans in special education 

In the Public Law, Private Schools & Special Education course, teachers gain insight into how the law impacts private and public schools from preschool through 12th grade. Teachers research the laws in their state and learn how to request an educational assessment from public schools. They also learn how their state allocates special education funding to private schools in their state and their role in creating an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Both courses will help teachers better understand special education law and support them in developing the best possible practice for teaching children with special needs.