(Jennifer Guze Campbell gave this speech to the Orange County Stanford Breakfast Club on November 6, 2013)
Beginning in 1975, the Congress of the United States began passing civil rights acts focused on education. These acts grew out of the civil rights movements that had been sweeping the country in the ’60’s and ’70’s. The educational rights of children who are handicapped were among the last to be recognized, but recognized they finally were.
Before 1975, if a school-aged child had a learning disability, the child’s school district would either attempt to have the child institutionalized or would simply send the child home as uneducable. Before 1975, approximately one million school-aged children with learning disabilities were not in school in the United States.
In 1975 and the years following, Congress and the legislatures of the various states passed civil rights education acts to protect children from their local school districts. School districts historically, and still today, ignore the civil rights of children who have special needs.
If you take nothing else away from this presentation, this is the single most important concept: School districts are at odds with children who have learning disabilities. To this day, school districts continue to ignore the intent of Congress and the state legislatures with regard to special education civil rights.
The governing civil rights law for children who have special needs is called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. It is commonly called the IDEA. This law is the master federal Act that governs the education and civil rights of students with learning disabilities. Each state legislature has mirrored this federal legislation in their state education codes or has created an stronger version of the Act for the students in their state.
The IDEA is a civil rights act that requires school districts to give children with learning disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.
In order to receive the benefits of the IDEA, a child must demonstrate that he or she is eligible. The categories of eligibility are:
4. Developmental delay
5. Emotional disturbance
6. Hearing impairment
7. Intellectual disability
8. Multiple disabilities
9. Orthopedic impairment
10. Other health impairment
11. Specific learning disability
12. Speech or language impairment
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