Brief History of Special Education


Plessy v. Ferguson


Upheld state racial segregation laws for public facilities under the "separate but equal" concept.

Brown v. Board of Education


A landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.

Title VI


Congress adds Title VI to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 creating a Bureau of Education for the Handicapped (this bureau today is called the Office of Special Education Programs or OSEP).

PARC and Mills cases


Two significant supreme court decisions [PARC v. Pennsylvania (1972) and Mills v. D.C. Board of Education (1972)] apply the equal protection argument to students with disabilities.

Section 504


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is enacted into statute. This national law protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability.



The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is enacted.



The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) is enacted. This was also known as P.L. 94-142. Today we know this law as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

finalized EAHCA regulations


The final federal regulations of EAHCA are enacted at the start of the 1977-1978 school year and provide a set of rules in which school districts must adhere to when providing an education to students with disabilities.

Board of Education v. Rowley


Supreme Court rendered its first opinion regarding the contours of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) mandate within it.

EAHCA amended


The EAHCA is amended with the addition of the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act. This amendment ensures that students and parents have rights under EAHCA (now IDEA) and Section 504.

EAHCA turns into IDEA


The EAHCA is amended and is now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).



The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is enacted.

IDEA reauthorized


This amendment calls for students with disabilities to be included in on state and district-wide assessments. Also, Regular Education Teachers are now required to be a member of the IEP team.

No Child Left Behind


This law calls for all students, including students with disabilities, to be proficient in math and reading by the year 2014.

IDEA reauthorized (again)


There are several changes from the 1997 reauthorization. The biggest changes call for more accountability at the state and local levels, as more data on outcomes is required. Another notable change involves school districts providing adequate instruction and intervention for students to help keep them out of special education.