Special Education Laws and the Disabled Child

The youth of today is the hope of the future. How a nation treats its children will determine either its success or downfall. It is for this reason that almost all states put emphasis on education. Education is a right guaranteed by any constitution. It must be accorded to all regardless of age, race, status or religion. Child education is compulsory. As such, even children with disabilities need to be educated.

K-12 education or primary and secondary education is required for all children with or without disability. However, k-12 education for children with disabilities can be difficult. Disabled children need special attention. Today, these children are fortunate that their special needs are already taken care of and they are no longer marginalized. But long before the passage of any special education law, only one out of five children with disabilities was educated. Most schools refuse admission to children with disabilities that child rights advocate began pressuring congress to legislate laws requiring schools to mandatorily accept children with disabilities.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 extended civil rights to people with disabilities. Such civil rights include education and employment to both disabled children and adults. In 1975, the congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) Public Law 94-142 establishing the right of children with disabilities to receive free and appropriate public education. It mandates the protection of the rights of the children with disabilities and their parents. It seeks to provide education to those disabled children who had been refused admission in the public school system.

In 1986, EHA was amended to include infants and toddlers below age 3 with disabilities. In 1997, EHA was renamed to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The coverage of the special education extended to other disabilities such as autism, traumatic brain injury and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). IDEA also implements the zero reject rule requiring schools to provide educational services to every child with disability even if the child may not benefit from it. The disabled child must be given free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. The child must be taught together with the other children with no disabilities. Upon its reauthorization in 2004, IDEA changed the identification procedures of learning disability and required high qualification standards for special education teachers.

It also required disabled students to participate in annual state or district testing. The No Child Left Behind Act or the Elementary and Secondary Act of 2001 emphasizes that all children have an equal opportunity to gain a quality education. It makes schools and the teachers accountable for their students' performance. It requires all government-run schools funded by the federal government to annually hold standardized accountability and assessment tests to all students including those with disabilities. Through the tests, the students' progress is measured in all academic subjects. The test scores are broken down to determine how a particular racial or socio-economic group is performing. Its objective is to prevent children from other ethnicities to be left behind in terms of learning. Such standardized tests may be modified to suit the needs of the student with disabilities. It also calls for highly qualified teachers and one high, challenging standard for the students. The various states will set the standards for both students and teachers.

The special education laws were enacted to safeguard the right to education of children with disabilities. These laws accord children with disabilities the same opportunities given to other children having no disability. This way, parents are assured that their disabled children are well taken care of and treated fairly.

Special Education and the Law Resources

Special Education Laws (U.S.)

  1. Disability Rights Advocate
  2. IDEA Practices
  3. Parents United Together
  4. Special Needs Advocate for Parents
  5. Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, Inc.
  6. Wrightslaw