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ERIC Number: EJ920357
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 2
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0164-775X
The Role of the DSM in IDEA Case Law
Zirkel, Perry A.
Communique, v39 n5 p30-31 Jan-Feb 2011
The school psychologist plays a central role in eligibility and other determinations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) not only at the school level but also, upon formal disputes, at the successive adjudicative levels of impartial hearing officers and courts. One of the sources of professional confusion that requires school psychologists' legal literacy is the role of the American Psychiatric Association's (2000) "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders", herein referred to generically as the DSM. In a study limited to eligibility for only one IDEA disability classification, autism, Fogt, Miller, and Zirkel (2003) found that (a) approximately half of the 13 hearing/review officer and court decisions mentioned the DSM, and (b) the IDEA regulation, rather than the DSM, was the controlling source for these legal decisions. The only exception was a low level decision based on state law. Because they represent the higher of these successive levels of adjudicative authority, do court decisions for IDEA cases more generally similarly find the same secondary role for the DSM? This study provides a relatively comprehensive canvassing of court decisions under the IDEA that mentioned the DSM. The databases were Westlaw and LRP's "Special Ed Connection." In sum, a relatively comprehensive canvassing of the pertinent case law reveals for IDEA issues that the DSM only appears in less than 1% of the published court decisions. Moreover, in the few court decisions where the DSM does appear, it plays only a secondary and supplementary role. Finally, where the IDEA's legal standards cover the dispute, they are controlling over any conflicting DSM standards.
National Association of School Psychologists. 4340 East West Highway Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814. Tel: 301-657-0270; Fax: 301-657-0275; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act