It is estimated that more than 1.3 million youth in the United States have a disability. One in four American adults have a disability that impacts major life activities. With disability rates this high, our nation must prioritize efforts to ensure that all children with disabilities and in need of special education are identified and receive the support they need in school. Congress, through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), mandated that all public schools locate, identify and evaluate all students suspected of having a disability. The special education community refers to this affirmative duty as “child find.” Unfortunately, this mandate has not been taken seriously and has left many children without access to an education that will prepare them for higher education, the workforce, and independence after graduation. Both the federal government and state agencies have left local school districts to their own devices in determining how to identify students who may need an evaluation for special education. This results in disparate access to special education for students who live in poor and low-performing school districts, particularly students of color. This Article argues that the child find mandate, as implemented, is ineffective for many school districts. In addition to strengthening guidance directing schools on how to implement the child find mandate, I propose crafting regional solutions that will provide greater access to training, resources, and accountability to aid school districts in more equitable access to special education.

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