Parents as Private Attorney Generals

How does the Rationing of Resources affect Contention against Schools?

Date: 
Wed, 11/16/2016 - 12:00pm
Location: 
438 Robertson Hall
Audience: 
Graduate Students


LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

From the author:  The Supreme Court recently granted cert in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, a case that highlights a tension in the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA): school districts have limited resources that they must ration between all students but the IDEA and other "tagged" entitlements grant parents a means to attempt to direct resources towards a particular child through private enforcement mechanisms. In the paper,  I use comprehensive data on IDEA enforcement activity to explore this tension between districts' need to ration resources and parents' ability to protest this rationing. First, I show that state-level legislation that results in fewer resources earmarked for special education students leads to an increase in private enforcement activity against districts. Then, using a California policy change that created a discontinuity where some districts received extra resources intended for students with tags of need other than special education, I show results that suggest that private enforcement may contribute to a "leaky pipeline" where resources directed towards students with one tag leak out to students with a tag associated with stronger private enforcement powers.  I am hoping to do fieldwork and interviews to supplement these results in the coming months, so very much appreciate any and all feedback!

Rebecca Johnson
PhD student in Sociology and Social Policy

Rebecca Johnson is a third-year PhD student in Sociology and Social Policy, with a demography specialization. Before Princeton, she researched topics at the intersection of medical ethics and law at the National Institutes of Health's Department of Bioethics and obtained a B.A./M.A. from Stanford University. Her research interests, supported by an NSF graduate research fellowship, include the impact of disease advocacy groups on U.S. health policy, the relationship between law and distributive justice, and changes to professional authority.