Department or Program



The federal government has been invested in developing and advancing public education since the nation’s inception. However, the Constitution remains silent on the notion of a constitutionally protected right to education. Several scholars have suggested that such a right would flow from the framework of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection, Due Process, or Citizenship Clause. After reviewing these claims, I provide a framework for a fundamental right to education, which flows from an expansive and emancipatory reading of the Thirteenth Amendment. This thesis proceeds in two parts. In Part One, I evaluate the modalities of evidence that support a fundamental right to education. In Part Two, I apply my theory of a fundamental right to education to the case of access for students with disabilities. I review the passage and subsequent reforms to a law initially passed in 1975, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. I then review the Supreme Court’s evaluation of this law in Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District., Westchester City. v. Rowley (1982), and ultimately consider whether, if the Constitution does guarantee a right to education, the outcome of this Supreme Court decision would change.1 This thesis offers policy, legal, and constitutional analysis on the fundamental right to education, specifically regarding the rights of students with disabilities.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Engel, Stephen

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Open Access

Available to all.