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PUBLIC LAW 94-142: THE EDUCATION OF THE HANDICAPPED ACT
State and federal laws regulate special education services and procedures. Of course, these laws are designed to protect children and parents. However, because of special terms and detailed regulations, these laws often seem complicated and confusing. Herein, we discuss the crucial aspects and foremost terms contained in Public Law 94-142. We hope that this page will help you, the parent or caregiver, better understand the important laws that have been adopted for the benefit of your loved ones who have disabilities.
In 1975, Congress passed a landmark piece of legislation - the Education of the Handicapped Act. For persons with disabilities, this act was the most complete and essential law to date in the United States. This law made it possible for states and local schools to receive federal funds in order to assist in the education of students with disabilities.
Public Law 94-142 brought together various pieces of state and federal legislation into a single, national law. This legislation made it possible for every qualified student with a disability to receive a "free appropriate education" -including special education and related services designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. Congress wanted to assure that the rights of children and students with handicaps, as well as their parents, would be protected.
Public Law 94-142 specifically instructs each state to furnish needed educational programs and services to persons with handicaps. With this law, Congress wanted to insure that persons with handicaps have at their disposal all the necessary means to receive an appropriate education. In addition, the legislation also stipulates a variety of procedures that students and their parents can use to protect their rights.
Public Law 94-142 contains a number of important components. First, let us consider how federal law defines a free appropriate education. This legislation stipulates that special education and related services must be provided at public expense - free to the family or caregiver. In addition, these services must exist under public supervision and meet the standards of the state educational agency. A state's educational facilities are required to include appropriate services on all levels - this includes pre-school, elementary, and secondary levels. Finally, and of utmost importance, is the fact that a state's educational programs must be constructed to meet the unique needs of its students. As we are all aware, each person possesses strengths and weaknesses in his/her learning procedures and capabilities. Therefore, Public Law 94-142 is designed to insure that all students with disabilities receive appropriate instruction that focuses on each individual's personal learning needs.
"Individualized education program" is another very important phrase that is put forward in Public Law 94-142. This phrase encompasses several vital points. To insure that each student with a disability receives a proper education by the most beneficial means, the federal government states that each student must be provided with a written statement concerning his/her unique educational needs. This written statement is to be developed in a meeting with a representative of the local educational agency or an intermediate educational unit who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction. Such specially designed instruction must meet the unique needs of the student with a disability, the teacher, and the parents or caregiver. The written statement is to address the following important issues:
· An account of the student's present educational performance levels;
· A statement of annual goals, including short-term instructional objectives;
· A statement of the specific educational services that are to be provided to the student;
· An account of the extent to which the student will be able to participate in regular educational programs;
· The projected date for the beginning of services and expected length of services;
· Appropriate evaluation procedures and schedules for determining, on at least an annual basis, whether instructional objectives are being achieved.
Parent involvement is an essential component of Public Law 94-142. This act defined parent rights and safety measures. There must exist a due process procedure that allows parents or caregivers to challenge any decision related to the identification, evaluation, and placement of their children. Such a measure guarantees that parents and caregivers will remain important to the aspect of accountability.
One of the cornerstones of Public Law 94-142 deals with the idea of a "least restrictive environment." The focus of this section of the law is to insure that a student with disabilities is not restricted by his/her interaction with non-disabled students. A student must be provided with a learning environment in which he/she receives the appropriate services, while not being restricted in his/her interaction with non-disabled students. Students with disabilities must be provided with a full range of alternatives. At a minimum, these alternatives are to include instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions.
In 1990, some substantial changes to Public Law 94-142 arrived through the Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments of 1990 (Public Law 101-476). Most apparent was the law's name change - instead of the Education of the Handicapped Act, it is now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. These amendments expanded many of the discretionary programs authorized under the law, as well as creating new programs. For example, a new program designed to improve services for children with serious emotional disturbance was created. Another new program focuses on conducting research and providing information concerning attention deficit disorder. The new law also recognizes the importance of transition services and technology services that assist students with disabilities. Such special education services must be included in a student's individualized education program. Also, the law now includes rehabilitation counseling and social work services. And, very importantly, this law expands services and rights to better serve and include more children who have autism or who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.
This law is designed to provide students who have disabilities and their parents or caregivers with the rights to a free appropriate education and the power to seek out and attain such an education. Most importantly, this law requires that if a public school is unable to provide a free appropriate education to a student with a disability, the school must provide the funds for this student to receive the best education possible elsewhere. It is very important for parents and caregivers to be aware of these aspects of Public Law 94-142 and its subsequent amendments. This law is designed to provide your child with the best available education, resulting in what we all desire for our children - a more rewarding and enjoyable life. This law provides you with the rights and the power to attain for your child a free appropriate education that is designed to suite her/his individual and unique needs.