The case Winkelman v. Parma City School District (Ohio) questioned to what extent, if any, may a non-lawyer parent of a school-age child with a disability proceed pro se in a federal court action brought pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] of 2004 (20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq; Anand , 2006)? Stated differently, the purpose of this lawsuit was to determine if parents can represent themselves and/or their children as non-lawyers in federal court and whether IDEA provides rights to both children and parents beyond due process (Council for Exceptional Children, 2007). To understand the basis of the question, the statutory framework governing education for disabled children and the origin of the dispute must be explored.
Relative LawIDEA of 2004 (20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq?) provides federal grants to all states for assistance in the education of children with disabilities. Under the act, a state must ensure a child with a disability receives a "free appropriate public education" or FAPE.
FAPE includes special education and related services necessary to meet the child's particular needs. According to Anand (2006), IDEA of 2004 governs the special education rights of 7 million American children with 68% of them living in households with family incomes below $50,000.
Local school systems are required to develop an individualized education program or IEP for each child with a disability in accordance with IDEA requirements. If parents are not satisfied with the IEP offered by their local education agency, they can file a complaint with the state or local educational agency. Parents are entitled to "an impartial due process hearing" conducted by the state educational agency or by the local education agency. Further, if any party is aggrieved by a decision at the final state administrative stage, the party has a right to bring a...