Disparate Treatment and Lost Opportunity: Courts’ Approach to Students with Mental Health Disabilities under the IDEA
Volume 88, No. 3, Spring 2016
By Kevin Golembiewski, Law Clerk to the Honorable Charles R. Wilson, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit; Harvard Law School, J.D., 2013 [PDF]

The United States is experiencing a mental health epidemic. Millions of Americans suffer from untreated mental health disabilities. Consequently, prisons and homeless shelters are packed with individuals struggling with those disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the flagship civil rights legislation for students with disabilities, presents a significant opportunity to address this crisis. However, this opportunity has not been realized because a large number of courts have adopted a narrow approach to the Act that denies students with mental health disabilities equal access to special education supports and services. This Article examines this narrow approach and argues that it is both legally flawed and problematic from a policy perspective.