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Special Education Law Timeline

By kwease
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    President: Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Under President Eisenhower, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare was formed. This served as a precursor to the Department of Education.
  • Brown v. Board of Education

    Brown v. Board of Education
    This court decision deemed it unconstitutional for schools to segregate students based on race. Due to the conclusion that educating students separately is not equal, advocates for special education were able to argue the same case for students with disabilities.
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    President: John F. Kennedy

    "The mentally ill and the mentally retarded need no longer be alien to our affections or beyond the help of our communities." -JFK President Kennedy, whose sister had disabilities, was a pioneer in changing the public perception of people with disabilities. He created a foundation for further improvements, including creating the President's Committee on Mental Retardation. Thanks to his work, from 1963 to 1983, Congress passed 116 acts or amendments regarding disabilities. Source: JFK Library
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    President: Lyndon B. Johnson

    "Education is the key to opportunity in our society, and the equality of educational opportunity must be the birthright of every citizen." -Lyndon B. Johnson President Johnson was instrumental in ESEA as well as the development of Head Start. Source:
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

    Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
    Signed by President Johnson in 1965, this federal law was created to ensure equal opportunity for all students. Although it is considered part of Johnson's "War on Poverty", this act also helped create equal opportunities for students with disabilities. Title III, specifically, provided funding for special education programs as well as the basis for the Education of the Handicapped Act. Source: Public Welfare, VCU Library
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    President: Richard Nixon

  • PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

    PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
    Using the logic gained through the Brown v. Board of Education case, PARC filed a class action lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania due to discrimination under the 14th Amendment. As a result, the law that schools were not required to provide education for students who were under the mental age of 5 by the 1st Grade was replaced by a law stating students were required the right to appropriate, least restrictive education until the age of 21. Source: Department of Education
  • Congressional Investigation of 1972

    Congressional Investigation of 1972
    Due to the PARC and Mills ruling, the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped formally investigated public education to uncover how many students with disabilities were being denied their right to education. It was found that 8 million students in the United States required special education but only 3.9 million were receiving it; over 1.75 million were not even in school. This finding led to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Source: IDEA Timeline
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
    Section 504 requires that any federally funded school provide "free public education" to all eligible students with a disability. In order to identify the child as eligible, the student first begins with an evaluation process. Source:
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    President: Gerald Ford

  • Education for All Handicapped Children Act

    Education for All Handicapped Children Act
    Commonly referred to as PL 94-142, this federal law required free public education be available to each child with a disability. This law allowed for children, who were previously denied, to receive an education. It also created a foundation of expectations that future laws would expand upon. These expectations included: state support, evaluation and accountability of educational efforts, and accessibility to an education that was "appropriate" to the disability. Source: USDE,
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    President: Jimmy Carter

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    President: Ronald Reagan

  • Handicapped Children's Protection Act

    Handicapped Children's Protection Act
    An amendment to the EAHCA, this act ruled that legal fees would be awarded to the parents of any child with disabilities who pursue a civil suit in regard to appropriate education. This ruling mitigates financial barriers for parents to advocate for their children. Source: Congress, H.R 1523- Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1985
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    President: George H.W. Bush

    "I think there are a lot of people who if given access to the workplace, for example, can achieve things. But if they are denied that they are denied a shot at the American Dream." - President George H.W Bush President Bush and his wife, Barbara (the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation), were huge advocates for individuals with physical and learning disabilities. With a lasting legacy, their passion is evident. Source:
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
    Previously known as the Education for All Handicapped Children, this law was revised in 1990 when it also underwent a name change. Although the goal did not change of providing fair and appropriate access to education for students with disabilities, amendments were added to include more categories of disabilities (TBI and autism) as well as require an ITP for all students with a disability. These changes allowed for more students to be protected under federal law. U.S.D.E Website
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

    Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
    This civil rights law protects individuals with disabilities against discrimination and ensures that they have the same rights and opportunities in all areas. These areas include: Employment, Public Services, Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities, and Telecommunications. In regards to special education, the ADA works alongside other laws to ensure equal opportunities for students in all areas (including summer camps and sports leagues). Source:
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    President: Bill Clinton

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    President: George W. Bush

    Aside from the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush also created the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education. This committee was responsible for collecting information related to special education programs with the goal of improving education for students with disabilities.
  • No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)

    No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
    The most significant law regarding education since ESEA, NCLB was created to close the gap of success. It is based on the ability for local control, increased flexibility, focus on research based teaching methods, and providing options for parents. This allowed for more accountability for education systems to assess if they were meeting the individual educational goals. Source: Department of Education
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), 2004

    Individuals with Disabilities Education  Improvement Act (IDEA), 2004
    These changes made to IDEA in 2004 require that states develop specific criteria to determine a child's disability in which every school within that state follows. This decision will be determined by a team of family and professionals as well as by other standards. This improvement allows for students to be diagnosed more accurately with a disability and therefore receive research based interventions more promptly. Source:
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    President: Barack Obama

    Along with passing the ESSA, the Obama administration was focused on ensuring equal opportunities for all. This included partnering with many state agencies and offering incentives for employing individuals with disabilities. Source: Department of Education, Supporting Individuals with Disabilities
  • Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

    Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
    Building on the ESEA, ESSA gives more power to the local and state education systems, allowing for more individuality. This will allow the special education departments to "have a seat at the table" when it comes to making decisions for their local municipalities. The law also specifically goes into detail about Specialized Instructional Support Personnel and ensures that all students have access to accommodations for their disability. Source: NEA News, Promising Changes for Special Education
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    President: Donald Trump

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    President: Joe Biden

    "These are not someone else's kids. They are all our kids. They are the strings that lift all our ambitions aloft. The Better Educated the public is, the better off everyone is." -Joe Biden Although only 8 months into his first term, President Biden has submitted a budget request for $16 billion for services included under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It is hoped that this will serve as a catalyst to fully funding IDEA. Source: Disability