Education Letter to the Editor

Special Education at 30

January 03, 2006 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

As one who has spent 30 years serving as a public school director of special education, I enjoyed reading (“Special Education at 30,”Commentary, Nov. 30, 2005.) Although I agree with much of what these four well-qualified professionals wrote, I disagree with their premise that only educators should determine a student’s individualized education program and that doctors and therapists should not have a role in this process.

Yes, doctors and various kinds of therapists have also frustrated me and left me feeling that they impeded the IEP process. But the reality is that for many children, special education is more than simply education. Just as a child who comes to school hungry cannot learn, some children with disabilities need medical intervention and/or some type of therapy before they can begin to learn.

The authors also pose the question, “Is due process still needed?” To that I answer, yes! They speak of “research-based instruction” as being enough to protect children with disabilities, but the simple fact is that not all school systems employ research-based instruction, and some still seem to put the budget before the needs of these children. Let us not forget that Public Law 94-142, the 1975 federal statute that is known in its current form as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the law it was modeled after, Massachusetts Chapter 766, became law only because of intense lobbying by the parents of children with disabilities who were shunted off to decrepit state schools, church basements, and boiler rooms converted into classrooms. (I once worked in an unused, whitewashed coal bin.) These dedicated parents are now grandparents. I doubt that they will let due process fade away.

Everyone should remember that PL 94-142 was a civil rights law, and so is the IDEA. Although they serve to help educate children with disabilities, their intent was and is to protect the civil rights of these children and their parents. Any attempt at reducing this aspect of the law will result in our losing our credibility as professionals.

Special education is still an important part of my role as a superintendent of schools, and it is my biggest budget-buster. The answer to a lot of our woes isn’t reducing parents’ rights, it’s providing adequate funding. In that respect, 30 years after the passage of PL 94-142, Congress has yet to fully step up to the plate.

Ralph E. Hicks


Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District

Spencer, Mass.


Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)