Thomas Francis Hehir, 1950-2022
Mr. Hehir, who was a strong advocate for children with disabilities, passed away in June
Thomas Francis Hehir, Ed.D., who served as director for the Office of Special Education Programs in the US Department of Education, died on 22 June 2022 in Boston, MA. He was 73 years old. He was a strong advocate for inclusion and recognizing the humanity of individuals with disabilities.
During his tenure at OSEP, which lasted from 1993-1999, he had a hand in the 1997 re-authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The 1997 reauthorization included changes in dispute resolution and increases in the age range when children could have the diagnosis of "developmental delay," and, especially important and consistent with Tom Hehir’s views of education, an emphasis on access to the general curriculum.
Mr. Hehir regularly advocated for making schools more inclusive (see Hehir, 2003; Hehir & Katzman, 2012). He was also committed to recognizing the humanity of individuals with disabilities; he wrote repeatedly about “eliminating ableism” (see, e.g., Hehir, 2002, 2005, 2007).
In addition to his work with OSEP, Mr. Hehir was a school administrator in local education agencies at Boston and Chicago and elsewhere. Mr. Hehir taught and advised students at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. Later in his life, he also contributed to other organizations including LGBTQ advocacy groups and those promoting awareness and understanding of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—often called ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease—the cause of his death.
Hehir, T. (2002). Eliminating ableism in education. Harvard Educational Review, 72(1), 1-33. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.72.1.03866528702g2105
Hehir, T. (2003). Beyond Inclusion. School Administrator, 60(3), 36-39.
Hehir, T. (2005). New directions in special education: Eliminating ableism in policy and practice. Harvard Education Press.
Hehir, T. (2007). Confronting ableism. Educational Leadership, 64(5), 8-14.
Hehir, T., & Katzman, L. I. (2012). Effective inclusive schools: Designing successful schoolwide programs. Wiley.
Heumann, J. E., & Hehir, T. (1998). Helping all students achieve to high standards: A partnership between federal and secondary school administrators. NASSP Bulletin, 82(594), 1-4. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F019263659808259402