By: Sheri Twist, DPS Director of Special Education
On December 2nd, National Special Education Day recognizes changes in federal legislation that led to the nation’s first federal special education law. Happy Special Education Day!
Beginning in 1971, a U.S. District Court case in the District of Columbia, Mills v. Board of Education, ruled it unlawful to deny exceptional children, including those with mental and learning disabilities, publicly funded educational opportunities. Court cases like this led to the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which was signed by President Gerald Ford on November 29th. The federal legislation required states that accept federal money to provide equal access to children with disabilities. Additional protections were added in 1986 to support parents and educators in creating an education plan for children with disabilities. In 1990, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and improved access for all children with developmental delay. Through the years, the act has been enhanced to improve services and standards throughout the educational system.
IDEA made education available to all American children, and this day honors the progress that has been made in special education. Before IDEA, many individuals with disabilities received little to no education. Schools were not required to make accommodations for children with disabilities. While some states offered special schools, the education and resources were not necessarily equal. Additionally, many parents couldn’t afford to send their children away to a special school.
The law stipulated that children with disabilities had a right to the same free education that every other child had access to. Between the ages of 3 and 21, there are 13 different areas where children may qualify under the IDEA for services. IDEA was instrumental in increasing graduation rates for students with disabilities. Dickinson Public Schools provides services under IDEA to over 650 students.
IDEA resulted in many changes beyond bringing students equal education. The integration of students also helps to remove the stigma of disabilities.
Dickinson Public Schools currently employs 46 special education teachers, 10 speech-language pathologists, 7 speech-language pathologist paraprofessionals, 2 occupational therapists, 1 physical therapist, 5 school psychologists, 2 special education coordinators, and 1 special education director. The roles of special education providers are to deliver services and support for students on IEP. One student’s program may be very different from those of another student. It’s all about the individual child and giving them the resources they need to make progress in school. In recognition of special education day, thank a special education provider today! They ensure success for our students!