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A RIGHT TO LEARN: ORIGINS OF THE EDUCATION FOR ALL HANDICAPPED CHILDREN ACT AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO KANSAS LAW
BY MICHAEL MACCONNELL
DECEMBER 10, 2011
Congress passed the act and President Gerald Ford signed it. Ibid. 2005). 2. first approved in 1990. The Civil Rights movement championed the rights of minorities and 1 1.. specific events took place to raise awareness about the plight of disabled students in the United States public school system.S. DC: Gallaudet University Press. IDEA. Robert L. and curriculum offered to children without disabilities. 118. . Osgood. Educators. it has undergone several significant facelifts to mold it into its current form. disabled children were segregated in public schools and were not given the same access to the resources. The History of Inclusion in the United States (Washington.A RIGHT TO LEARN: ORIGINS OF THE EDUCATION FOR ALL HANDICAPPED CHILDREN ACT AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO KANSAS LAW The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a principal piece of K-12 special education legislation in the United States. 89–90. but special education regulations were not always so accommodating for students with disabilities. Until the U.1 The predecessor to IDEA was the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHCA). handicapped students and their parents often take the current provisions of IDEA for granted. activities.2 Before the legislation was enacted by Congress.
5 Under the Kennedy administration. As previously mentioned.S. which published the report: A Proposed Program for National Action to Combat Mental Retardation. 6. . Ibid. However. 12. 1993). Kennedy’s sister was diagnosed with mental retardation. 121–122. The report outlined policy suggestions.4 In the midst of these movements.3 Though the reasons are not easily identifiable. Shapiro. Kennedy created the Special Panel on Mental Retardation. Joseph P.6 President Johnson followed in the footsteps of Kennedy by establishing the Committee on Mental Retardation and helping to pass the Elementary and Secondary 3. inspired by the Civil Rights movement.. 4. making the President especially sensitive to the plight of handicapped children. One such proposal was to increase federal funding for special programs that focused on mentally disabled children. Ibid.2 women in the educational system. began in the 1960s. largely due to the fact that he had a mentally handicapped sister. 5. the nation saw further change in special education programs. Osgood. Kennedy’s legacy this area also included the creation of a Division of Handicapped Children and Youth within the U. it was slower to embrace the constitutional rights of mentally and physically disabled children. No Pity: People With Disabilities Forging A New Civil Rights Movement (New York: New York Times Books. Office of Education. a separate disability rights movement. 128. 129–132. President Kennedy created the Special Panel on Mental Retardation..
237. Rehabilitation Act. Warren H. 2011). The U. 239.7 The act set funds aside to be used at the state level for special education and led to the creation of the Bureau of Education of the Handicapped. (Englewood Cliffs. President Kennedy took initiative by instituting a special panel to conduct research concerning the plight of mentally handicapped in the United States. the United States Rehabilitation Act was one of the first significant pieces of legislation that addressed educational and workplace discrimination against disabled people. Ibid. At the same time. PL 89-10).dotcr. 2nd ed. While it 7.8 Moving forward to the next decade.dot.gov/documents/ycr/REHABACT.ost. . that the events of the 1960s and served as a foundation for the landmark special education legislation of the 1970s—in particular. the state of Kansas passed its own education statutes that often times preceded the federal laws. It can be reasonably concluded. Johnson era legislation was integral in providing a precedent for the EHCA.S. but the legislation failed to focus on learning needs or other issues faced by handicapped children. History of Education and Culture in America. http://www.3 Education Act (ESEA. 8.HTM (accessed November 5. 9. then. 1989). prohibited discrimination against the disabled in any federally funded institution including public schools.9 The Civil Rights movement raised awareness of need to recognize the rights of minority groups in American society. Button.. While much attention has been given to special education legislation on the national level. 1973): H8070. the EHCA of 1975. NJ: Prentice Hall. Concerned about the needs of the mentally disabled community. ―Rehabilitation Act of 1973.‖ Congressional Record 119 (September 26. passed in 1973.
10 Therefore. but it also is beneficial for the other students as well as the classroom teachers. the Civil Rights movement provided an amenable social foundation for inclusiveness in education that went beyond race to include children with disabilities. In the end. Fellow historian Tracy Riley echoes both Sol and Robert Osgood by crediting the growing awareness that started by the time of Brown v. 12. Board of Education of Topeka. ―Far from hindering the rights of mainstream students. November-December 1999.4 is not within the scope of this paper to determine how or if the state statutes influenced the passage of the federal legislation. 247. A History of Education in the United States (New York: Random House. the entire education system is strengthened by including previously excluded students. Ibid. Tracy L. for rousing support for the EHCA of 1975. it is clear that Kansas was at the forefront when it came to recognizing the unique needs of disabled students and passing laws to ensure those needs were met by the public school system. Cohen Sol. the Supreme Court case which did away with existing segregation based on race in public schools. 1973). including disabled students in the main classroom not only benefits the special needs students.12 10. 11. Historian Cohen Sol claims that inclusive classrooms were probably the most significant result of the EHCA of 1975 and subsequent special education reform laws.‖ Gifted Child Today.11 During the 1960s.‖ she writes. Riley. ―A Glance Back Before a Glimpse Ahead: 10 Events of the Past that Might Just Shape the Future. inclusive classrooms enhance the educational experience of all students as well as for teachers. . 49-50. she says.
Prior to the passage of Rehabilitation Act. It also served as a foreshadowing of things to come some twenty years later. The law stipulated that a program of some type had to be in place by July 1. The bill states ―Compliance with the requirements of this section may also be accomplished by […] contracting with any accredited private non-profit corporation within or without the state which has proper facilities for the education of . 1974. the sixty-fourth Kansas State Senate passed Bill 600 in 1972. but it bears repeating that Brown v. Senate Bill 600 also mandated that districts had to cover for special education expenses. Board of Education is not only a landmark Supreme Court case. put Kansas at the forefront of the fight for equal access to education for African American students. The statute allowed schools to contract with private organizations for the education of developmentally disabled children. the Rehabilitation Act provided a foundation for future federal legislation including the EHCA of 1975. On the state level. Remember that the U. but it is also historic in Kansas because of its association with the state capitol of Topeka. From the perspective of education rights for disabled students.5 The historical connection to Kansas is clear. which began in 1951. Kansas gave schools the option to establish an on-site special education class or contract with an external institution. Kansas once again found itself out in front on the issue of education reform.S. up to three-times that of the per pupil operating cost of that district. The class action case. However. Rehabilitation Act was passed by Congress in 1973.
KS. What a Shame He’s Retarded (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Elwill M. Johnny’s Such a Smart Boy. 1977). the access to education—and to the social capital that came with it— became more and more defined in terms of social status on the national level. were often intentionally excluded from receiving an acceptable public education before the EHCA was passed in 1975. Secretary of State.14 Historian Osgood states that special education underwent a dramatic metamorphosis during the 1960s in terms of the number of programs offered by schools as well as the number of students served. but he also says that all children 13. 14. Shanahan. the proponents of the 1975 act worked tirelessly to apply a similar political argument that was used to eradicate race-based discrimination in education. .6 such student. Kansas State Legislature. 68–69. special education was plagued by poor learning conditions. unwilling or unable to work with them on an individual basis or uncover their strengths. The disabled. ―1972 Session Laws of Kansas.‖ (Topeka. a lack of adequate curriculum.‖13 While the state statute had its problems—namely the fact that disabled students could still be educated in separate institutions—it was groundbreaking in the sense that it recognized something needed to be done to change the way disabled students were being educated. and ill-trained teachers. Still. Leaning on the precedent of Brown v. Kate Long. 1972): 600. Board of Education and the Civil Rights movement as a whole. left on the outside. Education expert and author Kate Long says that educators largely lost hope in disabled children. While disabled students received a public education.
.. which worked with Kennedy and Johnson on special education. remained one of the most powerful lobbying groups throughout the 1960s. . 251. and minority status substantially altered views on the etiology and diagnosis of disability. Ibid. and the civil rights of Americans with disabilities.7 were not treated equally. 231. The NARC also helped promote research into the best methods of special education. The organization stimulated scholarly discussion and discourse related to social stigma. they were placed in overcrowded institutions that were often cited for ―cruel and inhumane‖ treatment of children. therefore. Scientific research allowed public policy to be 15. Osgood.15 Before handicapped students were included in general education classrooms.16 Students who were both poor and disabled suffered most of all because special education services were not funded by the government prior to the passing of the act. The National Association for Retarded Children (NARC). especially in the area of mental retardation. disability advocates routinely framed physical or mental disabilities as social justice matters and not just ones about health care. 229.‖17 Therefore. and disabled students needs were often neglected. the burden financial was placed on individual school districts. social justice. Ibid. cultural deprivation. Research that linked ―disability with poverty. 16. 17.
all handicapped students would be able to receive both regular and special education services depending on his or her specific needs. Sediak. Ibid. 20.‖ 781. 1975): 779. Robert L.21 It has been said before. In fact..20 The government provided all special education programs at no cost to the parents. ―Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. The public dialogue changed as well.8 proposed and implemented logically. but it cannot be overstated how important the Civil Rights movement was in increasing the recognition of the needs of disabled students. these allowances extended to children younger than five and up to the age of twenty-one.19 In many cases. 89. the legislation established the ―individualized education program‖ (IEP) for disabled children—a concept that is widely used today. 1976). According to the EHCA. . 271.‖ Congressional Record 121 (November 29. Church and Michael W.18 The 1975 EHCA addressed the needs of children with mental and physical disabilities and clearly outlined core objectives including the guarantee for a ―free and appropriate public education‖ for all students with mental and physical disabilities between the ages of five and eighteen. Ibid. 21. ―Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. and it drastically changed the role of disabled children in the classroom. 19. 22. Education in the United States: An Interpretive History (New York: Free Press. The act was especially helpful in guiding both teachers and school administrators. as terms like ―learning disabilities‖ entered the American lexicon.22 Therefore. administrators 18.
Ibid. Finally. 24. assessment methods or placement of their child. The act helped eliminate stigma and stereotype in the classroom and demanded more individualized and personal attention for each student.. [The bill] 23. President Ford signed the Act but with several hesitations and doubts. Parents had specific rights granted by the EHCA including the right to participate in—and object to—any and all evaluations. the act provided a clause regarding the rights of parents. Instead.. noting that: Its good intentions could be thwarted by the many unwise provisions it contains [and] the funding levels proposed in this bill will simply not be possible if Federal expenditures are to be brought under control. the EHCA set provisions forth that the IEP was to be ―based on multidisciplinary assessment and includes a statement of specific special education and related services to be provided to the child. The law also guaranteed parents the right to appeal any decisions made by teachers or school administrators about their child. 784. the IEP was far from haphazard or based on biased teacher observations.‖23 The act also stated that disabled children had to be allowed to learn in a ―least restrictive environment‖ rather than be automatically pulled out and sectioned off from the rest of the students. Furthermore.24 This legislation was ground-breaking because it was as much about funding education as it was about the basic civil rights of disabled students. 782. monolithic group. . Ibid. but it also had an influence on school budgets. The act did not just alter procedures and teaching strategies.9 and teachers were forbidden to instruct handicapped children as if they belonged to a generalized.
. 28. He writes that public outcry called for ―dismantling the dependency on segregated institutions and […] encouraging a more normalized. 1975) http://www. Riley. he says the funds were poorly managed. 27. 26. Church and Michael W. Riley claims that when the act was passed in 1975. complex. Gerald Ford. Sediak echo these sentiments by stating that the government set about thirty-five billion dollars aside for special education. They also point out that the EHCA was applied inconsistently.htm (accessed November 1.10 contains a vast array of detailed. Church and Sediak. December 2. community-based approach to caring for and educating this particular population of persons with disabilities. 243. Osgood. 93. she says that the government averaged less than ten percent through 1999 and says that the states could not make up what was left-over. 2011). White House.edu/library/speeches/750707. Washington.‖28 As the movement gained significant ground. the EHCA was a controversial piece of legislation. the government promised to pay up to forty percent of special education expenses.26 Historians Robert L. DC. However.utexas. ―On Signing the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975‖ (statement. However.27 Osgood suggests that the driving force behind the EHCA came from public sensitivity to the failures of private institutions to care for the handicapped. and it was not without its opponents. the table was set for a reasoned discussion 25.ford. 49. and costly administrative requirements which would unnecessarily assert Federal control over traditional State and local government functions.25 Therefore.
The EHCA would initiate further research into the ways technology and education strategies could make the United States a more inclusive and progressive society. 374. substantial progress was made over the next ten years in ensuring that handicapped children received an education equal to that of their able-bodied peers. 1985). Susan B.‖ in Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence. . inclusiveness became its core theme. The courts faced many pivotal questions: 1) Under what circumstances was a handicapped student entitled to private school placement? 2) Was the school district solely responsible for the financial burden? 3) Did schools have to require summer school programs for special education students? 4) To what extent were schools responsible 29. When the act was passed. Gail and Jerome Kagan. as the act evolved. (Boston: Gale Research. VA: ERIC. ―Education for All Handicapped Children Act. eds. Judicial Interpretation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Reston.11 about how to integrate disabled children into the mainstream public education system. Rutherford H.29 Although much of the legislation and research on special education prior to 1975 was geared toward specifically mental learning disabilities. the act provided for the needs of—as the title suggests—all children who are disabled. the discussion paused at leveling the playing field in terms of access to public education funding. Angela Woodward. 1998). 30. Turnbull and Craig R Fiedler. judicial interpretation of the act over the next ten years would be instrumental in how states were required to implement the law. 4. However. While the EHCA of 1975 was a landmark piece of legislation.30 Largely driven by federal and state court rulings.
In 1974. ―1974 Session Laws of Kansas. diagnosing and deciding their children needed special education services without their permission. catheterization. 7. The Kansas statute defined exceptional children as students who are school age and ―differ in physical. emotional or educational characteristics to the extent that special education services are necessary to enable them to progress toward the maximum of their abilities or capacities. Turnbull and Fiedler. Kansas State Legislature. Ibid. etc.‖32 It also defined special education services to be implemented by a special education teacher. or certifying students in need of special education services. ―1976 Session Laws of Kansas. 33.‖ (Topeka.35 31.12 for non-educational needs—transportation. behavioral therapy services. mental. Kansas State Legislature. 1976): H3100.—of handicapped students?31 Meanwhile. KS. Secretary of State. Elwill M. Secretary of State. Shanahan. diagnosing. the Kansas Legislature passed House Bill 3100 which granted immunity to school employees who participated in screening. Elwill M. .33 A year after the passage of the EHCA by the United States Congress. Kansas once again was on the cutting edge of education reform in the United States. Ibid. KS. 34.‖ (Topeka. 35. Shanahan. Kansas remained ahead of the curve by passing the Special Education for Exceptional Children Act (SEECA). physical therapy.34 This was in response to angry parents who reacted against school officials assessing. 32. social. 1974): H1672.
13 Amendments to the EHCA where abundant. 38. It was also expanded to include ―gifted students. an amendment in 1986 (P. Jack H.‖36 The 1986 amendment also provided for an early intervention program geared towards toddlers. 1979): H2075. Kansas State Legislature. .39 It may be too ambitious to claim that Kansas special education statutes impacted the federal government’s actions to legislate reforms on the issue. KS. Brier. Ibid. 99-457) included provisions for providing preschool children—three to five years old—with disabilities a ―free and appropriate public education. The 1986 amendments also allowed for an ―individualized family service plan‖ to encourage families to be actively engaged in their child’s educational progress. it is not too big of an assumption to say that Kansas took some level of initiative when 36. 24.. ―1979 Session Laws of Kansas.S.‖ (Topeka. reflecting changes in attitudes toward special education. Ibid. The changes included extending the age limit of eligible students from eighteen to twenty-one.L.37 An early intervention program helps educators to develop the best IEP possible. 37. For example. However..‖ or those who were thought to have a high learning aptitude. Congress. 1986): 17. Secretary of State.38 Again.‖ CRS Report to Congress (February 21. 18–19. and it can also help diagnose and treat disabilities that can be treated with early intervention. ―Education for All Handicapped Children Act Amendments of 1986. 39. the Kansas legislature was a step ahead of the U. The SEECA was amended in 1979 by the sixty-eighth Kansas Legislature.
Osgood. It was not until the EHCA was overhauled and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990 that school districts were required to provide on-site services for handicapped students. 14.41 How. Turnbull and Fiedler. reform took time and many obstacles still had to be worked out in the court system. though. 281. Congress did so. This issue raised many concerns about what services were covered and how such services would be paid for. often times before the U. The courts also ruled that while schools were responsible for providing services. As in most cases.S. the parents of the child would ultimately be responsible for deciding if special services were necessary. Some also asked if states could place a cap on the amount of money the government would pay for a child’s education.14 it came to passing special education reform laws. 41. . courts ruled that handicapped students could be placed in private residential or day schools that were best equipped to meet their needs. did the EHCA and subsequent court rulings relate to education statutes in Kansas in the 1970s? 40.40 Before IDEA. the courts ruled that it was legal for schools to either offer special education programs within the walls of their own building or contract with outside organizations that were set up to meet the needs of disabled students. Prior to that. The judiciary mandated that schools provide funds for placement in residential and day schools as well as transportation costs.
ahead of the curve when it came to education reform laws.15 In conclusion. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. even before the U.S. On the contrary. Kansas stands out as one of the frontrunners when it comes to the monumental special education reform that occurred in the United States in the 1970s. EHCA of 1975. Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act in 1973 and the EHCA in 1975. However. in many ways. disabled children were unfairly segregated and did not enjoy equal access to the same educational opportunities offered to ablebodied children. Kansas was also on the cutting-edge when it expanded SEECA to include high ability. gifted learners in 1979. and historians. Many people take the current state of special education in the United States under IDEA for granted. the Kansas legislature passed its own special education reform statutes in 1972 and 1974. before the EHCA was passed in 1975. it has been shown that this landmark piece of legislation and court rulings over the next several years did not happen in a vacuum. advocates. it has been clearly shown that special education regulations have not always done so much to meet the needs of disabled students. However. In fact. The events of the 1960s laid the foundation that made the nation more amicable to the day when Congress passed the EHCA in 1975. and the federal court decisions on the federal level get more recognition from politicians. Kansas was particularly unique in that the state legislature took the initiative to pass SEECA before the United States Congress took action in 1975. It has been detailed how the Civil Rights movement and actions by the Kennedy administration raised awareness about the discrimination against disabled students. Moreover. Therefore. . a cursory review of the state legislation actually shows that.
1986): 1-29. KS. 1976 Session Laws of Kansas. SECONDARY SOURCES Button. NJ: Prentice Hall.dot.. ______. Secretary of State. CRS Report for Congress (February 21. Topeka. Secretary of State.dotcr. White House. 1975. 2nd ed. History of Education and Culture in America. ―On Signing the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Shanahan. Church. New York: Free Press. Kansas State Legislature.HTM (accessed November 5. Englewood Cliffs. Topeka. Elwill M. Ford. ______. Education for All Handicapped Children Act Amendments of 1986 (P. 1974.ost. 99-457). Elwill M Shanahan. 1989. Robert L. KS.gov/documents/ycr/ REHABACT. Topeka.C. December 2. Warren H. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (P. 16 .L. Brier. 93-112) Congressional Record 119 (September 26. Gerald. 1979 Session Laws of Kansas. and Michael W.‖ Statement. 2011). Secretary of State. 1975): 773-96. Secretary of State.L. 1972.. 94-192). ______. Sediak. Education in the United States: An Interpretive History. Washington. D. Elwill M. 1972 Session Laws of Kansas.L. Topeka. Jack H. http://www. Shanahan.BIBLIOGRAOHY PRIMARY SOURCES Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (P. Congressional Record 121 (November 29. 1976. 1976. 1974 Session Laws of Kansas. 1979. 1973): H8070. KS. KS.
VA: ERIC Clearinghouse.: Gallaudet University Press. Judicial Interpretation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Kate. Boston: Gale Research.17 Long. A History of Education in the United States. Edited by Susan B. 1998.‖ In Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence. 1993. ―A Glance Back before a Glimpse Ahead: 10 Events of the Past that Might Just Shape the Future. Cohen. 1973. Shapiro. Reston. Turnbull. November-December 1999. 1977. 1985. Joseph P. 48-52. Sol. Angela. D. H Rutherford and Craig R Fiedler. The History of Inclusion in the United States. . What a Shame He’s Retarded. Tracy L. Riley. Osgood. Gail and Jerome Kagan. Woodward. 2005. Washington.‖ Gifted Child Today. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Johnny’s Such a Bright Boy. Robert L. New York: New York Times Books. New York: Random House. ―Education for All Handicapped Children Act.C. No Pity: People With Disabilities Forging A New Civil Rights Movement.
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