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Into the New Century: Frustration Mounts. Justice Delayed.

The 21st Century began with an all too familiar set of investigations and complaints about the lack of progress since the original passage of IDEA.

In 2000, National Council on Disability investigators discovered that every state was out of compliance with the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and that U.S. officials are not enforcing compliance.

Even today, schools sometimes place a student in a self-contained classroom as soon as they see that the student is labeled as having a disability. Some students enter self-contained classrooms as soon as they begin kindergarten and never have an opportunity to experience regular education. When families of students with disabilities move to a different district, the new school sometimes moves the student out of general education environments and into segregated classrooms.

Congress reviewed IDEA 1997 and passed IDEA 2004 with a new set of regulations. It said that progress "has been impeded by low expectations and an insufficient focus on applying replicable research on proven methods of teaching and learning for children with disabilities."

In 2002, The Arc US and AAMR described a pattern of continued segregation and under qualified personnel. They pointed to continuing funding shortfalls and assaults on the goals of IDEA as the cause. Arc US and AAMR described the issues as follows:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students with disabilities be educated to the maximum extent possible with students without disabilities. Despite this law, many students within our constituency remain segregated in self-contained classrooms in separate schools, with limited or no opportunities to interact with non-disabled age peers. Segregation of students in schools perpetuates the alienation of these students. Many do not have access to the same academic and extracurricular activities and services provided to other students. Frequently, these students leave school unprepared for adult life in the community.

Additionally, many schools lack sufficient and/or trained educators and support personnel to provide an appropriate education. Despite some gains, special education programs have never realized the promise of full funding, particularly by the federal government. Some communities still oppose special education and seek to limit educational opportunities for students in special education. Indeed the education of students with disabilities has been under assault on numerous fronts by the press, school officials and the public.

children next to a bus
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D