The persistence of low expectations in special education law viewed through the lens of therapeutic jurisprudence

Int J Law Psychiatry. Nov-Dec 2010;33(5-6):375-97. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2010.09.009.


For more than thirty-five years a paradigm of low expectations has infected efforts to educate children with disabilities and has been a persistent and stubborn obstacle to the successful implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and its predecessor, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA). This dilemma raises questions addressed in this paper: What is meant by low expectations in the context of Special Education Law? What are the root causes of this phenomenon, and what makes it so resistant to change? How does it impede implementation of the IDEA? And lastly, in what ways does the paradigm of low expectations impact children with disabilities socially, emotionally, and psychologically? The primary purpose of this paper is to consider these questions, particularly the last, utilizing therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ), a theoretical lens through which the emotional and psychological impact of the law and its processes upon those who interact in its context may be viewed and analyzed.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Aptitude Tests
  • Child
  • Child Advocacy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Child, Preschool
  • Curriculum
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Children / education*
  • Disabled Children / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Disabled Children / psychology
  • Education, Special / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Mainstreaming, Education / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Male
  • Personhood
  • Prejudice
  • Rejection, Psychology
  • Social Perception
  • Stereotyping
  • United States