IDEA is 46!
What was it like when the law that guides services for students with disabilities passed?
It was 29 November 1975. President Gerald Ford signed Public Law 94-142, making it the law of the land. Today is the 46th anniversery of federal support for special education for children and youths with disabilities.
I apologize. I clicked the wrong button and sent a preliminary copy of this message as an e-mail message to subscribers. This is the more appropriate version!
This is just cause for a celebration. Services for students, including very young children, were spurred ahead by the passage of P.L. 94-142 and its successors. I’ll return to catalogue some of those changes in a coupla-few paragraphs, but first I want to describe the broader context.
Although this post will not feature much about me, let me just say that I was a student in 1975. I was studying special education at the University of Oregon, and my advisor was Barbara D. Bateman, Ph.D., who was a third-year student (is that a “3L?”) in the school of law at the time. Professor Bateman, who already had a giant reputation in special education, had decided to study law so that she could use the law as a tool to “do things for kids and women.” I was fortunate in that I got front-row explanations about “the law,” as I often called it at that time, as if it was the only law worthy of discussion.
But there were lots of other things happening then. There were lots of signal events in 1975. Here is a brief, incomplete, month-by-month list of just a few1:
In January of 1975, the militant group, Weather Underground, detonated bombs at the Washington, D.C., offices of the U. S. Department of State! Wheel of Fortune debuted on TV. Former members of President Richard Nixon’s government, including the U. S. Attorney General, were found guilty of crimes related to the Watergate scandal.
The United Nations declared 8 March as “International Women’s Day” It was the first! Also, in March 1975, in both the United Kingdom and the U. S., a movie based on the musical group The Who’s Tommy was released. Among the featured songs was “Pinball Wizard.” Although the song was originally released in 1969, the lyric turned out to make a great connection with P. L. 94-142: “That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure played a mean pinball!” Here’s a video of Elton John and The Who performing Pinball Wizard.
Also, in March of 1975, John Wooden, the legendary coach of the UCLA men’s basketball teams, won the 10th of his 10 career NCAA championships. Wooden had announced earlier that he would retire after the season, so he went out a winner.
During the first few months of 1975, the divided Viet Nam continued to war on each other, north and south. At the end of April, 1975, the capital city of the south, Saigon, was overrun by forces of the north. If you’ve seen images of people being evacuated from the rooftop of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon (and they have been widely broadcast in the late summer of 2021), this was the time that it happened.
In June of 1975, the United Kingdom voted to continue its membership in the European Union. With Brexit, it appears that things have changed since then! Also in June, the movie Jaws was released and many-many people bought tickets!
In July, with people aboard, U. S. and Soviet Union space crafts meet in space and docked, allowing ‘nauts to enter each others’ spacecrafts while in orbit. Also, in July, labor leader Jimmy Hoffa was reported missing; his remains still have not been located.
In September 1975, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Only a little later in the month, Sara Jane Moore also attempted to assassinate Ford. That same month, fugitive Patty Hearst was captured; she had been kidnapped in 1974, but had joined her kidnappers in criminal activity (e.g., bank robbery). The TV series, Fawlty Towers, was first aired; although I’ve watched every episode repeatedly, it still makes me laugh.
In October 1975, a reported 1 billion people watched as Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought a boxing match in Manilla, Philippines. Saturday Night Live debuted. Francisco Franco, who had ruled Spain since the late 1930s, resigned.
In November, six industrialized countries (France, Italy, Japan, the U. K., the U. S., and West Germany) met for the first time; the “G6” was the forerunner of what we not know as the “G7,” which includes Canada, and many other groups (e.g., G20).
And, on 29 November, U. S. President Ford signed P. L. 94-142 into law.
Now, I certainly have to admit that this catalogue is western centric (let alone, John centric!), but I hope it gives readers an idea about the context into which P. L 94-142 was born. There was a heckuva lot happening!
P. L. 94-142
The law was passed by the U. S. Congress and signed by President Ford. It created what is essentially the right to education for students with disabilities. Previous court cases (PARC, Mills, etc.) had demonstrated how students with disabilities had been denied educational services because of their disabilities. The law remedied that problem.
SET pal, Ed Martin (see Friday Photos 5) was an eyewitness to the events leading up to and following the passage of the law; his book, Breakthrough: Federal Special Education Legislation 1963-1981, is well worth a read. The efforts of Ed Martin, Fred Weintraub, and Joe Ballard guided much of what we know as the foundation of special education. We all owe them a lot of gratitude.
P. L. 94-142 was known at the time as the “Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.” It required that all students with disabilities were entitled to a free and appropriate public education (“FAPE”).
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act required that state and local education agencies take steps to ensure that they were identifying kids with disabilities within their catchment areas (i.e., “child find”). ensure that each individual student receives FAPE, predicated on nondiscriminatory evaluation for identification, on creating an Individualized Education Program that meets the student’s unique educational needs, that engages parents of students with disabilities as well as their teachrs as legitimate partners in children’s education, and performs these duties with documented safeguards indicating that the procedures have been executed consistently and fairly.
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was the predecssor to what we now call the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA), in the U. S. It was the basis for solid footing for special education.
It’s worth celebrating.