A Brief History
Before you can really appreciate and understand Special Education, you need to understand its history. It all began with parents.
Remember the scene in the movie Forrest Gump when Sally Field's character sat in the principal's office of her local public school, and was told her child would not be allowed to attend school with other students? The Principal told her that Forrest's IQ was too low for the state standard. Although you may not realize it, this scene is a fairly accurate portrayal of what parents of students with disabilities faced prior to the 1980's.
It was parents who refused to accept that their children deserved a sub-par education in separate schools; and who decided to take on the school districts. These courageous parents sued for, and finally won, the right to send their children to public schools.
We take for granted that students with disabilities are allowed to attend public school, it was only in 1975 that it became law....and it took years before it was fully realized.
The Education of all Handicapped Children Act of 1975 was the first legislation to protect the educational rights of students with disabilities. This law was later amended to become the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is how we know it today.
Although the name of the law changed & new provisions have since been added, its overall purpose remains the same; IDEA guarantees educational rights to all students with disabilities and makes it illegal for school districts to refuse to educate a student based on a student’s disability.