Before the Education of All Handicapped Act of 1975 passed, it was nearly impossible for individuals with disabilities to receive an education. Public schools could deny education to individuals with disabilities, which left students with relatively few options. Few students were fortunate to afford private schools or home-schooling, while the rest were left with no other options. While few students with disabilities that were admitted into public schools encountered many struggles and challenges since schools offered such few obligations. The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was used as a precedent when passing The Education of All Handicapped Act of 1975 (Public Law 94-142), as it determined it was unlawful to discriminate against a group of individuals. The passing of this law had a positive impact on millions of children with disabilities who were excluded from the education system, as it guaranteed a free appropriate public education. This law also supported the several children with disabilities who had limited access to the education system by providing resources and accommodations.
Fundamentally, PL 94-142 was passed to guarantee that individuals aged from 3-21, would have a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Children protected under this law must undergo extensive evaluations that test their educational capabilities under either the parent’s request or under the school’s recommendation. If the evaluation results meet one or more of the disabilities listed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), your child is eligible to receiving special education required by the school. Therefore, public schools are receiving federal funding to provide specific resources and accommodations throughout the school and in classrooms. All students, including students protected under this law and in need of a special education, are to be taught the same content and held to the same high standards for proficiency in subjects taught without any reduction.
Public schools are required to provide appropriate accommodations and resources that fit the needs of all the students who have disabilities that affect their learning abilities. With such a wide variety of types of disabilities, it is likely these accommodations being provided will be more towards a range of students, rather than a student’s own personal needs. Leaving students with disabilities with unfilled needs and still being held to the same high academic standards as everyone else. This, in turn, results in students still facing difficult challenges and their disabilities still having an immense effect on their learning abilities. As Zigmond stated, “They are held to the same high standards for proficiency in reading, mathematics, science, and other subject matter taught in schools. They are not singled out for special instruction or stigmatized by having to leave class to get special help in a special room.” Since students with disabilities are still facing struggles in their academics and held to the same standards, they are not receiving the equal education promised under the law. Therefore, are these students being protected under this law? These students whose disabilities affect their learning abilities should not be held to the same standards as students who do not have a learning disability. Prior to the law being passed, students with disabilities experienced challenging burdens that interfered with their academics. Why are students still facing struggles after the law being passed? However, the schools are providing what is required by the law and have improved education extremely, but not entirely.
The law states that not all students with disabilities are protected and only individuals whose disabilities have an adverse impact that requires a special education. The court defines special education as “specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability” (IDEA, 20 U.S.C. Sec 1404[a]). However, the school places these accommodations in classrooms and throughout the school, which makes it available for all students to use. Students who are eligible for special education are not receiving the specially designed instruction needed. If this differentiated education is being provided in the same environment as everyone else, with an instruction that is not unique to a student’s needs, they are not receiving the special education being promised. If a majority of the accommodations is available for all students, the law should not exclude any students from being protected.
A law affecting education widely is inclined to causing huge controversy. PL-94-142 has impacted millions of children by guaranteeing a free and appropriate education. Students with disabilities that have an adverse impact on their education are not entirely receiving what is being promised. Public schools provide students with disabilities the most appropriate educational programming for the child and their educational needs by providing accommodational needs promised. When students with disabilities are embodied in the same environment as normal students, they are not getting the special education needed. However, the schools are providing what is required by the law, but not with the intent to benefit these students being protected. Therefore, students are still facing challenges in their academics as prior before the law, which shows PL 94-142 is not very effective and does not fully protect students under this law.
A Nation At Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (1983). National Commission on Excellence in Education Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office.
Zigmand, Naomi. What, Where, and How? Special Education in the Climate of Full Inclusion (2009): 189-204. Taylor Francis Online, 9 Oct. 2009. Web. 3 Mar. 2017