The History of Special Education in America

  • Asylums

    In the 1800s, asylums took care of disabled children. Their purpose was charitable in nature, not educational.
  • The American School for the Deaf

    The American School for the Deaf
    Thomas Gallaudet starts first special education school. The school later became known as the American School for the Deaf. Stakeholders were Gallaudet, Deaf people, and their families.
  • Perkins School for the Blind

    Perkins School for the Blind
    This was the first school for the blind in the United States. While it moved locations a few times, it still exists today. The stakeholders were blind people, their families, and educators.
  • Horace Mann

    Horace Mann
    As the Secretary of Education for Massachusetts, Horace Mann started common schools. Immigrants and people from all backgrounds would attend these schools. Common schools were created in response to social problems. It was a way to reach people in poverty, in "the lower portions of the population" and teach them the values Mann believed all people should embrace.
    The main stakeholders in Mann's theory were proponents of public education. He also wanted to elevate poor immigrants.
  • Compulsory Education

    Compulsory Education
    As with Mann's common schools, compulsory education laws were enacted to help immigrant children assimilate into the values of the dominant culture. Compulsory education laws were first passed in Massachusetts in 1853. New York state passed compulsory education laws in 1854. It is interesting to note that disabled children were not required to go to school. They were allowed to stay home.
  • Expulsion

    In 1893, the state of Massachusetts allowed a student to be expelled due to poor academic ability. There were no protections in the law for the education of disabled students. The stakeholders were non disabled teachers and law makers. They viewed students with disabilities as distractions in the classroom.
  • White House Conference on Children

    These children's conferences first began in 1909. James E. West, an attorney who was raised in an orphanage, started them. West was a friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, and was a strong proponent for children. That first conference in 1909 focused on raising children in homes, by families whenever possible. It was a move to keep children out of institutions. These conferences continued each decade through the 20th century. Stakeholders include disabled children, institutions, and lawmakers.
  • Beattie vs. Board of Education in Wisconsin

    Beattie vs. Board of Education in Wisconsin
    In this case the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided that a student could be excluded from a public education classroom due to a disability. Merritt Bailey was a young man with a hearing loss. He also had problems with his speech, and he exhibited drooling and facial contortions. The court ruled that all of these things were disruptions to the learning environment. Bailey was expelled from school. The stakeholders in this case were Bailey and the school district.
  • Parent Advocacy Group of Cuyahoga County Ohio Council for the Retarded Child

    Parent Advocacy Group of Cuyahoga County Ohio Council for the Retarded Child
    This group was the first of many parent advocacy groups that grew from a concern regarding the deplorable conditions children with special needs encounter in public schools. By 1950 there were over 88 of these parent advocacy groups across the United States.The stakeholders are the students with disabilities and their families. On the other side were the school districts. Over the years, the divide lessened, as both parties have acted in the best interest of students with disabilities.
  • Brown vs. Board of Public Education

    Brown vs. Board of Public Education
    This court case had a significant influence on special education. Brown stated that children could not be segregated on the basis of race. Segregation violates equal educational opportunity. This decision opened the door to the idea that all people regardless of race, gender, or ability have the right to a public education. Following the Brown decision, parents of disabled students began to bring lawsuits against their school districts demanding that disabled children not be segregated.
  • Stakeholders in Brown v. Board of Public Education

    American school children, their families, the NAACP and school districts were the stakeholders in Brown v. Board of Public Education. This case was hallmark legislation that posited the idea that separate was not equal regarding education. It ended segregation. One argument stated that African American children who attended the separate schools were more likely to feel inferior to white children, and this was a violation of the 14th amendment.
  • Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965

    Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965
    This act provided funding to schools for professional development, instructional materials, resources to support educational programs, and the promotion of parental involvement. An amendment to the law in 1966 provided funding specifically for students with disabilities. Teachers and parents were major stakeholders in this act. Professional development can facilitate successful implementation of instructional strategies for students with disabilities.
  • The President's Committee on Mental Retardation

    The President's Committee on Mental Retardation
    This group was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 to ensure the right of a dignified place in society for people with intellectual disabilities. The name of the committee was later changed to The President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
  • Education of the Handicapped Law

    Established a grant program to stimulate States to develop educational programs and resources for students with disabilities.
  • Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

    Parents were the plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit. The decision in this lawsuit overturned a law that restricted disabled children from receiving a free and public education. The court ruled that no child can be denied a public education. It also said that educational placement decisions must include parent participation. The stake holders were parents, children, and PA school districts.
  • Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia

    Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia
    This was another class action lawsuit brought by parents. It extended the decision of PARC in that public education must include students with disabilities regardless of their level of function. It also increased parent rights. Parents had the right to be notified of pending evaluations, placement, suspensions, and when services end. The stakeholders were the school districts, and families. Both of PARC and Mills led congress to further investigate the education of children with disabilities.
  • PL 42-142 / The Education for All Handicapped Children Act

    4 Purposes:
    -to assure that all children with disabilities have available a free appropriate public education designed to meet their unique needs
    -to assure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected
    -to assist States and localities provide for the education of all children with disabilities
    -to assess and assure the effectiveness of efforts to educate all children with disabilities
    Source: EAHCA
    Stake holders: Parents, schools, government, disabled students
  • Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley

    Supreme Court rules that students who qualify for special education services must be afforded access to public school programs that meet their educational needs and are supported with services that ensure students will benefit from instruction. Stakeholders include lower courts, IEP teams, students, families, and school districts.
  • Individual with Disabilities Education Act - IDEA

    Individual with Disabilities Education Act - IDEA
    The purposes of IDEA include ensuring that a free and appropriate public education with an emphasis on special education and related services is available to all children with disabilities to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living. Again, the stakeholders are children with disabilities, their families, school districts, and government entities. IDEA has been reauthorized several times over the years.
  • No Child Left Behind

    A law stating that all students including those with disabilities should be proficient in math and reading by the year 2014. Stakeholders were individual schools, teachers, government entities, American students, and standardized testing companies.