Friday, October 7, 2011

Special Education 101, Section A: Overview of the Federal Laws

When we talk about Special Education in America we are talking about four federal laws:
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (§ 504)
Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)

Any discussion of the federal laws should begin with the landmark 1954 US Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Board of Education, where the Court struck down the practice of race based “separate but equal” schools. The Court held that “education must be made available to all on an equal basis." This case marked the beginning of the recognition that previously limited or excluded populations are entitled to receive the same societal services and benefits as everyone else, guaranteeing “equal access.”

In 1973, Congress passed a sweeping federal civil rights law protecting people with disabilities, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Section 504 of the Act stipulates that “otherwise qualified individuals shall not be excluded from participating in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by recipient programs or activities, if that treatment is due to their respective disabilities.”   The law prevents discrimination and gives access to students, employees, and customers of entities that receive federal money, which clearly include public schools.  As a result, today more than 96% of students with disabilities are served in public school buildings.  Section 504 will be the focus of future blog spots.

In 1975, Congress passed a major federal law giving an educational entitlement to all children with disabilities.  The “ Special Education Law” or, as originally passed, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, Public Law 94-142, states that schools must design individual education  programs for students with a disability that affects his or her educational performance,  and provide  any “related services” the child requires in order to take advantage of the special education programs.  Further, the law requires that the special education program be designed to confer benefit.   While the law remains essentially the same today, Congress has passed a number of amendments to the law.   For example,   in 1990 Congress changed the name of the law to Individuals with Disabilities Act – IDEA.  In 1997 they moved the law’s focus from the implementation of special education programs to assuring a quality special education program with measurable goals to show progress.  In 2004 Congress passed amendments so as to better align IDEA with the new No Child Left Behind Act, with greater accountability requirements for all students, including those with disabilities.   IDEA remains as strong as ever today, and is the primary special education law in public schools.  It will be the focus of many future blog spots.

In 1990 Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibiting discrimination in services, programs and activities provided by state and local governments and all businesses, public and private with 15 or more employees.   The law prevents discrimination and gives access to people with a disability not just to entities that receive federal money, but also to private entities.

In 2002, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act mandating that all students, including student groups based on poverty, race and ethnicity, disability and limited English skills, meet specific academic benchmarks.  The law is designed to promote equal academic proficiency.

You may have noticed the common thread that began with Brown vs. Board of Education and continues in this series of laws to this day.  It is equal access, which includes physical access, educational access and access to education programs that will promote academic proficiency.    You will hear a lot about these laws in more detail in this blog, but this very basic overview helps set the foundation. 

Please remember, parents are natural advocates for their children.  It is important to know the law, stay informed and work collaboratively with the schools.  Until next time . . .


  1. Hi Roberta. I came across your site, after reading a pamphlet I received from DMRF. I have cervical dystonia, and have started a blog to share my experience and reach out to others about this disease. I want my blog to be a place were people can comment on their experiences or just read and hopefully feel empowered by mine.

    If you are interested, please go to


  2. i love the blog that you have shared, and its very helpful for all students and the teachers..its also a way to know between the teacher and the student relationship..students now a days needs a proper discipline for they don't know how to respect their teachers

  3. Every child need to be respected, if you looking for his/her respect. If you want child became a self-confident we need to behave with him/her like an adult. Otherwise we'll have some challenges.
    Try to spent more time at home with children and you'll notice how their behave is change. If you give to do your job, you'll find a lot of time for family. I know, I have done suc thing, and I'm happy now.

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  5. I am Shelley from Los Angeles,California, I want to testify on how i got cured from cervical dystonia, I have suffered from cervical dystonia since the year 2011 with so mush pain,that i have to spend so mush money getting pain relief in the hospital, and I have visited several doctor ,but all to no avail, my world was gradually coming to an end because of the constant muscle contractions and pain , until i saw a post in a health forum about a herbal Dr Williams who use herbal portion in curing people from different kind of diseases including dystonia, at first i doubted if it we be able to cure me, but i decided to give it a try, when i contacted this herbal doctor via his email, he prepared a herbal portion and sent it to me via courier service, when i received this herbal medicine, he gave me step by step instructions on how to apply it, when i applied it as instructed, i was completely free from dystonia just for 1 months of usage,i we recommend this to all my friend family in the world today who still suffering from dystonia you can contact him through his email on for help.

    My daughter suffered from dystonia for more than 7 years which we started experiencing in her when she turned 4 year and 5 months we all thought it will end but got even worse as days went by. We tried all several treatments and therapy prescribed by various doctors we met but to no avail, she lost total concentration and always complain of  neck discomfort. She usually tells me she haves jerky head movements. This were steady disorder that disrupted her entire life, even at night she slept less because of this.It was during a casual conversation with a friend that i learned about Dr Williams herbal medicine I was able to contact him on his email address. and give him all the necessary information that he needed,few day later he sent me the herbal portion and his medicine was able to restore her back to normal and she is very okay now without any side effects whatsoever. If you have dystonia, do not hesitate to contact him on for advice and for his product. I hope this also helps someone out there.

  7. Dear FRIENDS,
    now i have a beautiful smiling face and so are which you all, after reading my testimony. My name is kate, I am 31 years old,
    And i live with my husband in Belgium, but I am from UK. I was diagnosed in 2012 with cervical dystonia. Doctors told me this condition was forever. I know how you feel and what you are going through,  I just want to tell you that I am cured now,with the help of doctor williams herbal medication, the last time I can remember having cervical dystonia was in the summer of 2016. It was a long and difficult process but I am so thankful to dr williams I don't have it anymore. Please know you can be cured too. Accept what happened and is happening to you, forgive, let the past go, love yourself and others unconditionally and be thankful. Everything happens for a reason. If you want to get in contact with dr williams and share your own testimony and thoughts feel free to e-mail him on; for advice and for his product.

  8. As a sign of gratitude for how my son was saved from dystonia , i decided to reach out to those still suffering from this.
    My son suffered dystonia  and it was really tough and heartbreaking for me because he was my all and the symptoms were terrible, we tried various therapies prescribed by our neurologist but none could cure him. I searched for a cure and i saw a testimony of so many people who was cured from dystonia  and so many other with similar body problem, and they left the contact of this doctor who had the herbal cure to  dystonia  . I never imagined  dystonia has a cure not until i contacted him and he assured me my son will be fine. I got the herbal medication he recommended and my son used it and in one months he was fully okay even up till this moment he is so full of life. dystonia  has a cure and it is a herbal cure contact the doctor for more info on on how to get the medication. Thanks for reading my testimony .