U.S. Appeals Court Ruling Upholds
Transition Rules for Special Education

May 29, 2002
Further Information:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has upheld Judge Robert Gettleman's rulings denying a preliminary injunction to prohibit the State Board of Education from implementing transition rules for the certification of special education teachers and denying motions to intervene in the Corey H. case.

The State Board of Education was directed by Judge Gettleman to draft the transition rules to bring the certification of special education teachers into compliance with federal special education laws. Special education certification was based on the specific categories of disabilities served, and Judge Gettleman directed that the state revise its approach to certification in order to have the certification system facilitate compliance with the federal law's Least Restrictive Environment requirement. Gettleman ordered the State Board in August 2001 to begin implementing the transition rules.

The transition rules provide ways for current special education teachers to attain the cross-categorical certification that will be required of newly trained special education teachers. A summary of the rules may be accessed on the web at The request for a preliminary injunction was filed by a group of special education teachers from outside the City of Chicago and a group of special education students outside the City of Chicago, collectively known as Reid L. In denying the request for injunctive relief, the Court of Appeals explained that the Reid L. groups were not likely to succeed on the merits of their claims.

The groups also asked for the right to intervene in the Corey H. case. Gettleman ruled that the groups could not intervene at this stage and the Court of Appeals agreed.

In denying the intervention request, Gettleman cited several reasons: (1) timeliness, since the case had been litigated for nearly ten years; (2) prospective intervenors had not shown they had standing to sue, given that " they were asserting only a generalized interest in a sound educational system;" (3)failure to "demonstrate that their interests had not been adequately represented by an interested party, namely, the ISBE; " and (4) prospective intervenors "failed to show that their rights or interests would be impaired by anything in the Corey H. settlement," since placement decisions for students would continue to be made on an individual child basis through an IEP and teachers would maintain their certification with professional development to help them ailor their training to the new system.

The appeals court also upheld Gettleman's right to order the changes despite objections of state officials. The legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules had objected to the rules and directed that they be suspended and both the Illinois House and Senate had passed a resolution opposing the implementation of the transition rules. The Seventh Circuit decided that Gettleman acted properly in ruling that "state authorities did not have the power to override an injunctive decree issued by a federal court to remedy a state's violation of standards established by federal law."

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