Monday, December 10, 2007

Special Education Laws

PL – 94-142 – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1975)
This federal law, also known as IDEA, requires states to provide “ a free, appropriate public education for every child between the ages of 3 and 21 (unless state law does not provide free, public education to children 3 to 5 or 18 to 21 years of age) regardless of how, or seriously, he may be handicapped.”
PL 94-142 was the first law to clearly define the rights of disabled children to free appropriate public education (FAPE). Included in this part is the idea that related services will also be provided.
It requires the school systems to include the parents fully when meeting about the child or making decisions about his/her education.
It mandates an individualized education program (IEP) for every student with a disability. The IEP must include short and long-term goals for the student, as will as ensure that the necessary services and products are available to the student.
This law also requires that students be placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE). LRE means placing the student in the most normal setting that is possible.
PL 94-142 also ensures that students with disabilities are given nondiscriminatory tests (tests which take into consideration the native language of the student and the effects of the disability).
Due process procedures, such as confidentiality of records and written notifications are in place to protect the parents and the students.
PL 105-17 amendment of 1997 identifies the following thirteen categories of disability:
Development delay
Emotional disturbance
Hearing impairments, including deafness
Mental retardation
Multiple disabilities
Orthopedic impairments
Other health impairments
Specific learning disabilities
Speech or language impairments
Traumatic brain injury
Visual impairments including blindness
(Two personal comments here – I couldn’t help but contrast the purpose of this bill, as stated in Sec. 601(c) – to assure that all handicapped children have available to them …a free appropriate public education…to assure that the rights of handicapped children and their parents are protected… with something I saw on a recent trip to Washington DC. We went to the Holocaust Museum and there was quite a section on the law set into motion in the 30’s by Hitler, which effectively murdered the entire handicapped child population of Germany. Something like 300,000 children were killed simply because they were handicapped. The other item of interest to me was something I read in The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards. One of the main characters in the book had a Down’s syndrome child in the 50’s. Very interesting to see her struggle to get a FAPE for her daughter.)
PL 93-112 - Rehabilitation Act (1973)
Section 504 is the one sentence final provision of the Act. It states that “No otherwise qualified individual with disabilities in the US…shall, solely by reason of handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. “
Individuals with disabilities is defined in what is known as “ the three-prong civil-rights definition” of disability. People need satisfy only one of the three prongs. 1. Have a permenent medical condition that significantly limits the person in major life activities. 2. Have no such condition but have a record of having had one in the past. 3. Have no condition, but are falsely thought to have one.
There is no requirement in the definition that people “need special education “ or other services. In special education, section 504 is important primarily for
Children and youth who have medical conditions that do not demand specially designed instruction (a good example is a child who has epilepsy). These children fail the IDEA requirement that they ”need special education” and thus may not be served under IDEA
Children and youth who have medical conditions that are not on the list of conditions that is part if IDEA’s definitions. (For example, c a child with AIDS).
Children and youth who need “related services” in order to benefit from instruction. Placing these children into educational programs with out offering them the needed related services would be discriminatory. An example might be a deaf child with exemplary academic skills and thus does not need specially designed instruction, simply and interpreter in the classroom.
PL 101-336 – Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)
The ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. Disability is defined as “ a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” The Act covers employment, public services/transportation, Public accommodations and telecommunications.
Its applications to special education lies primarily in that its protections apply to nonsectarian private schools and preschools and it requires public schools to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. These reasonable accommodations might include facility accessibility, modification of exams and policies, provision of interpreters.

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