Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Lolita Tabron

Second Advisor

Kristina Hesbol

Third Advisor

Dashaunda Patterson


Ableism, Discourse, DisCrit, Legal, Racism, Special education


As families and advocates of students of color labeled with dis/abilities face mounting inequities they turn to the courts seeking protection. Unfortunately, even after courts issue written decisions ostensibly designed to protect students labeled dis/abled, these students continue to experience systematic oppression in school. This is due, in part, to the discourse used by the courts when addressing issues affecting students labeled dis/abled and the elitism of the judicial system. The purpose of this study was to examine the legal discourse used in the most recent Supreme Court case concerning the education of students labeled dis/abled, Endrew F. v. Douglas County RE-1, through the theoretical lenses of DisCrit and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), to understand the Supreme Court’s ideological perspectives on race and ability. The analysis revealed discourse that othered students labeled dis/abled based on normative standards of behavior and medical science, and narratives of meritocracy, neoliberalism, and ability-blind ableism. Based on these findings, the author offers several recommendations, including professional learning opportunities, centering student lived experiences, and strong counter narratives that humanize students labeled dis/abled. Future directions for research are also discussed.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Stephen F. Fusco


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

228 pgs


Special education