History of Special Education

Timeline created by rbalbi
  • First Public School

    First Public School
    In 1896, the state of Rhode Island opened the first public special education class in the U.S. This marked the beginning of special education. Regular education teachers started noticing the growing number of students with learning disabilities and called for special teachers to teach this special population in a different setting.
  • Brown vs BOE

    Brown vs BOE
    Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka was a court case that paved the way for special education. On May 17, 1954, the U.S Supreme Court ruled that segregation on the basis of skin color violated their constitutional rights. It was determined that an equal education for all was not possible in separate facilities and thus segregation came to an end. Following this ruling parents and organizations of students with disabilities started fighting for their rights as well.
  • President's Panel on Mental Retardation

    President's Panel on Mental Retardation
    In 1962, President Kennedy formed the President's Panel on Mental Retardation to pursuit further research on developmental disorders and what is known today as intellectual disabilities.
  • Special Olympics

    Special Olympics
    Watch this short video on the history of special Olympics:
    Then watch this video to hear from the Olympians themselves:
  • PARC v. Commonwealth of PA

    PARC v. Commonwealth of PA
    In January 1971 the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) vs Commonwealth of Pennsylvaia determined that all persons who were mentally retarded could benefit from education and training. A regular public school class was more beneficial than a special public school class and all schools were to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE). If students were attending a special public school class they needed to be evaluated every two years.
  • MIlls v. BOE DC

    MIlls v. BOE DC
    In 1972, Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia established that all children are entitled to free public education and training appropriate to their learning capabilities. Children who had disabilities were not to be denied admission, suspended, expelled, reassigned or transferred from regular public school classes without due process of law.
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973

    Rehabilitation Act of 1973
    The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires access to programs and activities that are funded by Federal agencies and to Federal employment. Section 504 under the Rehab, Act is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It ensures that a child with a disability has equal access to an education. A child may receive accommodations and modifications.
  • Public Law 94-142

    Public Law 94-142
    The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142) became law in 1975. This law required states that received federal funds to provide to their students with disabilities ages 3-21 a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The IEP was to outline the education and services the school would provide to these children. It also required parents to provide consent prior to evaluations.
  • Tech Act of 1988

    Tech Act of 1988
    The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. The law provided funding for states to develop consumer information and training programs designed to meet the needs related to assistive technology of individuals with disabilities. Assistive technology service and assistive technology device were defined by the act.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
    In 1990 PL 94-142 became known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA required students have a transition plan by the age of 16 years. It also added social work and rehabilitation counseling as related services and added two more disability categories: autism (AUT) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). For more information on this act please visit:
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

    Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. It prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life. ADA is an "equal opportunity" law for people with disabilities.
    If you are interested in finding out more about your rights as a person with a disability please visit:
  • Assistive Technology Act of 1998

    Assistive Technology Act of 1998
    In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Assistive Technology Act. The purpose of this act was to support programs and grants to states to help them address the technology needs of individuals with disabilities.
  • IDEA 2004

    IDEA 2004
    Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 was to bring IDEA of 1997 into alignment with No Child Left Behind Act. It established six principles: zero reject, protection in evaluation, Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), Procedural Safeguards, and parental participation. It also established that IEP services be based more on scientific findings.