This article examines the role that law school clinics could play in remedying a gap in legal services for youth with special education needs while simultaneously enhancing law students’ awareness and understanding of disabilities and providing students with unique skills. The authors show that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), recently reauthorized by Congress, places the burden of enforcement on parents but leaves these parents — particularly those marginalized by poverty, race, language or immigration status — without sufficient access to legal representation. The authors suggest that this representation gap is aggravated by lawyers’ and law students’ lack of awareness of the civil rights implications of this inequity and sometimes exacerbated still further by disability bias. The authors contend that law schools have an obligation to confront such “dis-awareness” by raising issues of disability discrimination and disability rights in the classroom and in clinical programs. Drawing on their informal survey of law school clinics that address the subjects of special education, child advocacy and juvenile justice, the authors assert that such clinics not only serve an essential unmet need for legal services but also further the pedagogical goals of fostering disability consciousness and teaching skills that are applicable to many areas of social justice practice.
11 Clinical L. Rev. 271 (2005).