chapter  8
Disability, Diff erence, and Justice: Strong Democratic Leadership for Undemocratic Times
ByThomas M. Skrtic
Pages 22

In Distinguishing Disability: Parents, Privilege, and Special Education, Colin Ong-Dean (2009) argues that the egalitarian and democratic impulses that produced the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EAHCA) were undercut by the statute’s legal and institutional interpretation and by the design of its parent participation and procedural due process provisions. As a result, rather than democratic solutions to the recognized special education problems of ineff ective instruction, exclusion, and racial/ethnic and social class bias, the EAHCA-and its progeny, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—merely enabled individual parents to mount narrow technical challenges to the their child’s diagnosis, needs, and accommodations. Beyond muting broader social concerns about the special education system, by reducing its problems to isolated cases the IDEA created “an individualized and competitive environment” (OngDean, 2009, p. 14) that favors privileged parents, thereby turning a law premised on democratic reform into yet another instrument of racial/ethnic and class injustice (see Skrtic, 2010). This and other unintended consequences of the IDEA, alone and in conjunction with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), forms the moral and political backdrop of special education leadership today, an institutional context whose transformation, I believe, should be the aim and focus of leadership development in education and special education.