I am honored to be one of the featured speakers at the West Virginia Law Conference this week. I'll be speaking on Thursday about basic special ed law and I'll give an update on caselaw. I'm looking forward to my presentation.
Whenever I prepare a SpEdLaw 101 type presentation, I'm reminded about the progress we have made. Special Ed Law is "new law." In lawyer talk, that means that it didn't come over on the boat from England.
Since 1975, when this field of law was born, much has happened. Before IDEA, only about 3.9 million of 8 million kids who needed special education were receiving an appropriate education. Disciplinary expulsions and warehousing in most states caused miserable conditions for children with disabilities. Courts generally made matters worse- like the infamous decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1919 upholding the exclusion of a child with cerebral palsy from school because “his physical condition and ailment produce[d] a depressing and nauseating effect upon the teachers and school children.”
We may not be where we want to go yet, but here's a big thank you to all the teachers, providers, paraprofessionals, administrators, parents and students who have helped make special education one of the most successful government programs! Please keep up the good work.