Federal policy has transformed the education of students with disabilities in the United States. Prior to the 1970s, exclusion was largely the rule for millions, who were placed in separate schools from their peers and often inappropriately educated because of their physical and behavioral disabilities. But in 1975, the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (originally the Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act) began the process of ensuring that these children be integrated with their peers whenever possible, and evaluated, accommodated, and supported to fulfill their potential.
The Obama administration expanded federal protection of students with disabilities, but as the Department of Education reviews all policy guidance in the wake of President Trump's executive order on regulatory reform, there's a concern in the special education community that policies may shift. We spoke with Laura Schifter, an expert on special education policy and a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, about what districts can expect, and how schools can continue to support their most vulnerable students.