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July 4, 2023

Role of Case in Shaping and Improving Education Services


It has been 45 years since groundbreaking legislation made it possible for students with learning impairment to attend similar community schools as children without special educational accommodations. The first special education services aimed to discourage irresponsibility among at-risk children living in urban slums. Urban school districts developed manual training courses to complement their general education courses. Over time, there have several court cases and legislative action that has influenced policy direction on special education in the United States. This paper outlines several legal cases, legislative and executive action that has influenced the evolution of special education, the personal abilities enhanced in service provision, and the best practices developed.

Role of Cases in Shaping and Improving Services

Supreme Court Decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (17 May 1954)

Topeka’s Panel of Education, a lawsuit in which the U.S. Supreme Court collectively (9–0) resolved on 17 May 1954, that ethnic favoritism in communal schools breached the fourteenth constitutional reform prohibits states from refusing balanced protection of the laws to any person within their authority. In this massive lawsuit, the Supreme Court ruled that isolating children in public learning institutions based on ethnicity was unlawful (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954). It effectively terminated authorized racial separation in the United States’ communal schools, overturning the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case’s “separate but equal” concept.

After two preponderance verdicts and cautious, if obscure, wording, Brown’s Supreme Court’s resolution against the education panel encountered significant opposition. Along with the palpable anti-discriminatory, some legal theorists thought the verdict violated legal proceedings by depending heavily on sociological evidence rather than criterion or current law (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954). Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local government. Brown has since been seen as similarly significant in banning inequity on the grounds of impairment by Congress. This ruling significantly impacted subsequent disability statutes, such as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (E.H.A.) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.).

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (9 April 1965)

The Primary and High School Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) (P.L. 89-10) was endorsed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on 9 April 1965 (Paul, 2016). It culminated in the proliferation of state education agencies and the states assuming a larger role in education policymaking. This legislation elevated education to the forefront of the nation’s fight against poverty and established a precedent for fair access to high-quality education. The ESEA is a sprawling piece of legislation that funds elementary and high school education while stressing high prospects and transparency.

As prescribed by the Act, funds are authorized for professional advancement, teaching materials, educational program funding, and parental involvement promotion. On 9 April 1965, the Act was signed into law, and its appropriations were to be carried out over five years (Paul, 2016). Since the Act’s inception, the government has reauthorized it every five years. Numerous updates and modifications have been implemented during these reauthorizations.


Pennsylvania Association of Retarded Children (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (8 October 1971)   

Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 334 F. Supp. 1257 (E.D. Pa. 1971) was litigation in which the complainant sued the defendant (PARC), currently known as The Arc of Pennsylvania, over a statute that empowered communal schools to refuse free schooling to learners who had attained the age of eight but had not yet achieved the intellectual age of five. Notably, the State had exploited the statute on several instances to refuse liberal public schooling to children who struggled to integrate into learning settings and colleges.

It was the first significant court case establishing disability equity for students. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania filed and settled the lawsuit between 1971 and 1972. Since the vocabulary adopted in this situation is obsolete compared to common use, the term “mentally retarded” entails any mental infirmity. The petition argued that every child, even if they have an intellectual disability, is entitled to receive liberal education (PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1971). Additionally, it was claimed that not having access to free schooling services would have a detrimental effect on a child’s growth.

While intellectually disabled children would gain disparately relative to other kids, they would learn self-help skills. Additionally, the more schooling disabled children get, the more they will prosper in the future. Pennsylvania’s schooling legislation at the time called for the denial of students’ due process rights in addition to their right to a liberal communal education. Plaintiffs contended that this was both illegal and unfair.

Judge Masterson of the United States District Court issued a consent decree declaring the current legislation limiting children from six to twenty-one years of age unlawful (PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1971). Additionally, it was claimed that Pennsylvania was accountable for offering free communal schooling to all children; it implied that no kid, regardless of disability, could be restrained from accessing free communal educational services by the Commonwealth. The level of education and preparation provided to disabled children had to be comparable to general students.

  Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia (17 December 1971)

The litigation of Mills against the District of Columbia’s education panel in 1971 was a lawsuit that brought major reforms in the education sector. The court determined that learners with impairments must receive community schooling regardless of their ability to pay for it (Mills v. Bd. of Education, 1971). The decision established that Columbia’s district education board was not permitted to refuse these persons access to publicly funded educational opportunities. Exceptional students included those with emotional and intellectual disorders, as well as those with behavioral problems.

The case included children who were refused educational opportunities due to their perceived exceptionalities. The exceptionalities included mental retardation, emotional disturbance, physical handicap, and hyperactivity (Mills v. Bd. of Education, 1971). The education board failed to offer training for these youngsters, resulting in a violation of the board’s regulations. The State seems to have decided that all children should receive an education and that classes should be established after Congress appropriated funds.

The judge determined that if adequate funds are not available to cover all of the system’s necessary and desirable resources and programs, the accessible finances must be distributed properly such that no kid is completely expelled from a communally funded schooling. The schooling must be compatible with their requirements and with the potential to take advantage of it. The inefficiencies of the District of Columbia communal education system, whether due to inadequate financing or managerial incompetence, cannot be allowed to affect the exceptional or disabled kid disproportionately.

Congressional Investigation of 1972

Congress commenced an investigation to determine the population of children with compensatory education requirements was being treated unacceptably. According to the Commission of Education for the Disabled, there were almost eight million kids in need of learning disability education (Chiamulera, 2017). The extent of the issues confronting America’s impaired learners became clear in 1972 when a legislative report reported that 1.75 million youngsters with impairment were not obtaining schooling services, two hundred thousand were institutionalized, and another 2.5 million received an inadequate education.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The 1973 Rehabilitation Act’s Section 504 was the country’s pioneer impairment civil liberty statute. It forbids inequity against disabled persons in federally funded services and paved the way for the passage of the A.D.A. (Gargiulo & Bouck, 2019). It has been updated several times to ensure its continued usefulness. Section 504 mandates recipients to offer adequate educational program to learners with disabilities that are tailored to their unique needs in an identical manner that services to learners without infirmity are tailored to their needs. According to the Section 504 regulations, an adequate education for a student with a disability can include regular classroom instruction, regular classroom instruction with supplemental services, and special schooling and correlated services.

If a school district violates any clause of the Section 504 law or regulations, the district is considered to be out of compliance (Gargiulo & Bouck, 2019). Initially, Office for Civil Rights (O.C.R.) makes an effort to put the school system into voluntary compliance by negotiating a remedial action concession. If O.C.R. is incapable of obtaining voluntary adherence, imposition action may be taken. For example, O.C.R. can initiate administrative proceedings against the recipient to terminate the recipient’s Department of Education financial assistance.

Notably, Section 504 applies to eligible students with disabilities who attend schools that receive financial aid from the federal government. To qualify for Section 504 protection, a learner must have a physical or intellectual disability that significantly restricts single or multiple main life tasks, has a report of such a disability or is recognized as possessing such a disability (Gargiulo & Bouck, 2019). Additionally, it extends to all public elementary and secondary schools and the majority of private schools and colleges that receive federal funding.

Consequently, Section 504 ensures that individuals with disabilities have the right to equal accommodations when participating in these services and events. To be protected by Section 504, a learner must be between the ages of three and twenty-two, depending on the curriculum and state and federal law (Gargiulo & Bouck, 2019). An impairment, chronic disease, or other illness that significantly impairs or abates a learner’s capacity to access education in a schooling setting due to a training, behavioral, or health-based position is considered an impairment under Section 504.

As per Section 504, any individual can recommend a learner for the appraisal (Gargiulo & Bouck, 2019). While anybody, such as parents or a physician, can request, O.C.R. has indicated in a staff notice that the school district must also have cause to hold the student requires Section 504 services due to a disability. Placement resolutions need to be undertaken by a team of individuals informed concerning the infant, the significance of the assessment information, the available induction options, the criteria for the least restrictive setting, and comparable facilities.

Mattie T. et al. v. Johnson (1975) – A Mississippi Specific Case

Before 1975, individuals with severe disabilities received little or no training. Individuals with moderate mental retardation were classified as “educable” and provided the ability to acquire basic academic skills and social skills. Individuals with more serious disabilities were classified as “trainable” and instructed in self-help and social skills (Mattie T. et al. v. Johnson, 1975). The first class action case was brought in 1975 to support all Mississippi learners with infirmities and those accused of having an impairment.

The lawsuit sought to hold the Mississippi Department of Education (M.D.E.) accountable for failing to assure that local institution districts acknowledged, evaluated, and provided adequate schooling programs to children with impairment (Mattie T. et al. v. Johnson, 1975). The parties entered into a Consent Decree in 1979. For more than two decades, the M.D.E. consistently refused to adhere to the initial decree’s criteria. After more than a year of lengthy consultation, the teams reached an agreement in the summer of 2003 on a revised concession proclamation that would remain in force until 2011.

The latest concession proclamation includes enhancements to Child Find, the Least Restrictive Environment (L.R.E.), and the non-biased evaluation of minority learners for compensatory learning. The M.D.E. has retained the services of multiple federal experts to support the State in enforcing the provisions of the concession injunction. Attorneys from the Center and co-counsel (Southern Disability Law Center) closely track the State’s progress.

 Education of All Handicapped Children Act (E.H.A.), otherwise known as Public Law 94-142 (29 November 1975)      

Congress established the E.H.A. in 1975 to assist state and local governments in securing the interests of Hector and other kids, infants, children, and toddlers with impairment, as well as their families, in meeting their requirements and enhancing outcomes (Alvarado & Rodriguez, 2018). President Gerald Ford signed the E.H.A. into law which necessitated all states that obtained funds from the national government to offer equivalent access to schooling for kids with impairment.

Legislative proposed for all disabled students to have a privilege to educate and create a mechanism for holding State and local school bureau responsible for offering schooling services to all disabled kids (Alvarado & Rodriguez, 2018). Originally, the legislation concentrated on guaranteeing that disabled youngsters have entry to schooling and fair and reasonable procedures for enforcing the law. The legislative incorporated a comprehensive framework of legal counterbalance known as systemic protections to protect children’s and parents’ rights.

Additionally, the Act mandated school districts to establish administrative processes by which parents of impaired children could appeal to their offspring’s education. After exhausting governmental remedies, parents were given the authority to request judicial review of the administration’s decision.

This decree commanded that all community schools obtaining federal finances to provide equal schooling chances and lunch daily to students with physical and intellectual impairment. Public institutions were expected to assess disabled students and develop an instructional strategy with parent feedback that mirrored the training experience of non-handicapped learners as closely as possible.

Additionally, P.L. 94-142 provides a clause stating that impaired learners should be put in the slightest prohibitive setting possible—one that grants for the greatest probable interaction with non-disabled learners. Segregated schooling is appropriate only where the existence or seriousness of the condition precludes the achievement of academic goals in the normal study halls (Alvarado & Rodriguez, 2018). The legislation provides a fair and just legal provision that ensures an impartial hearing when parents of disabled children have a dispute with the school system.

The bill was passed to ensure that children who need special education services have access to the services and ensure that decisions regarding programs for students with disabilities are made fairly and reasonably (Alvarado & Rodriguez, 2018). Additional goals include defining special education-specific management and auditing standards and offering federal assistance to states to educate students with disabilities.

Public Law 99-457, Amendment to All Handicapped Children Act (8 October 1976)

            Public Law 94-142 is a 1975 federal law that ensures free community schooling and related programs to all impaired children ages 5 to 21 (DREDF, 2021). This legislation was revised in 1986 by Public Law 99-457, which expanded the age range for critical care to include children ages 3-5. Additionally, in a section titled Infants and Toddlers, states were given the option to expand these programs, designated timely intercession program, to kids aged between birth and three years. Today, it has a sizable impact on public education, with about 10% of all students receiving special education.

There were no exemptions: neither the seriousness nor the type of the handicap, nor the absence of an adequate educational program, nor even a lack of available funds, were considered.

 Handicapped Children’s Protection Act [HCPA] (6 August 1986)

The HCPA represents a major victory for civil liberties and disability activists. It builds on the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA). According to Powell (2015), the EAHCA requires that public schools receive federal financial assistance have nondiscriminatory access to training and food dispensation for students with impairment; the HCPA introduces a provision addressing litigation expenses for people who win in a case based on the EAHCA.

It amends the E.H.A. to provide for the payment of fair lawyers’ fees, legal costs, and expenses to the parents or guardians of a disabled child who win in a civil action based on the EAHCA to uphold the youth’s privilege to a liberal adequate public schooling (Powell, 2015). EAHCA determines that such charges be focused on market rates for the type and quality of services rendered in the region in which the litigation occurred. It prohibits the payment of certain fines, expenditures, and costs with finances given to the State under such Act.

EAHCA provides the defined provisions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 relating to bias against the impaired based on grants and services from the national government shall be implemented in compliance with stipulations on kindergarten, elementary, high school, and adult schooling programs and services (Powell, 2015). Additionally, it allows for communal access to court decisions and an unofficial process for resolving complaints.

It provides that involvement in a casual complaint settlement meeting with the local educational department, State, or transitional educational department shall not impact the convenience or provision of any privileges of the disabled child’s parents under such Act’s procedural safeguard provisions (Powell, 2015). EAHCA establishes an anti-retaliation clause concerning the implementation of, the exercise of jurisdiction under, or the right protected by legislation to support all impaired children’s education.

Public Law 101-476, modification of P.L. 94-142 (1 January 1990)  

The amendment is based on the 1954 landmark desegregation case Brown against Topeka’s education panel (347 U.S. 483). The statute was called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by public law 101-476, which modified Public Law 94-142 (Powell, 2015). It mandated that each learner have a personal transition scheme as part of their I.E.P. by 16. The strategy enables the coordination of various programs and interagency collaborations to assist students in transitioning to post-secondary functions such as independent living, technical training, and supplementary schooling experiences (Powell, 2015). IDEA increased two new programs to the perspective of related programs such as social work and recovery therapy. Additionally, autism and horrific brain injury were added as different disability types.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (4 June 1997)

The IDEA is an American statute that guarantees that learners with disabilities receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) customized for their requirements (DREDF, 2021). IDEA is divided into four sections the common provisions, help for the training of all kids with impairment, both elementary school-age children and preschool programs. Section C covers toddlers and youngsters with disabilities, while section D deals with federal activities to enhance the support programs for children with impairment.

P.L. 105-17 preserves the main engagement of initial federal laws in this region, encompassing the promise of FAPE in the least prohibitive setting for all children with disabilities, as well as the guarantee of due process and procedural protections. Under section B of the IDEA, school districts’ responsibility to guardians planted private institution learners with impairment (DREDF, 2021). IDEA Part B can provide benefits to disabled students in private schools if their parents place them. Simultaneously, it imposes no restrictions on private schools.

Congressional amendments to IDEA (3 December 2004)

IDEA 2004 aims to re-entitle IDEA in accordance with No Child Left behind (NCLB) and bring education statute up to date (Lipkin & Okamoto, 2015). Notably, a difference in I.Q. performance is no longer needed to diagnose a particular learning impairment. Response to Intervention (R.T.I.) can be used in conjunction with special education evaluations since R.T.I. interventions are evidence-based. The teams that design individualized education programs (I.E.P.s) depend on academic-reviewed publications. Therefore, student evolution is tracked daily using written measurable objectives.

Without determining if the behavior is a symptom of the impairment, a learner with an impairment could be detached to a provisional alternative environment for up to forty-five academic days if the conduct involved a firearm, illicit substances, or bodily injury (Lipkin & Okamoto, 2015). The model of an educational dispute-resolution framework was explained—changes in special education eligibility and assessment processes.

No Child Left Behind or Every Student Succeeds Act (2015)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the primary federal law governing elementary and secondary general education (Alvarado & Rodriguez, 2018). It applies to all students enrolled in public schools. When ESSA was enacted in 2015, it supplanted the contentious NCLB. Although the two laws are distinct, they share certain characteristics. States must consider more than test scores when assessing schools under ESSA. NCLB placed a premium on academic achievement and evaluated schools largely based on state reading and math test scores.

At the moment, states are required to administer oral and mathematical tests to learners in grades three up to grade eight and once in secondary school. Notably, states are accountable for school performance (Alvarado & Rodriguez, 2018). The law establishes a structure, but it is a malleable one. Under the federal system, each State can establish its targets for student achievement.

 American’s with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.)

In 1990, the A.D.A. was endorsed into law. Civil liberty legislation restrains inequity against individuals with an impairment in all aspects of life, such as employment, education, and transportation (DREDF, 2021). The legislation’s objective is to guarantee that individuals with impairment have equal liberties and chances. The Act also governs the delivery of educational services to public and private schools.

The A.D.A. covers nonsectarian private schools, but religious organizations, private schools, and institutions operated by religious organizations are not; the A.D.A. provided additional protection when used in conjunction with Section 504 acts (DREDF, 2021). For qualified students with disabilities to perform critical job functions, reasonable arrangements are necessary. It is true for any aspect of a special education program that is community-based and includes work preparation or placement.

Personal Abilities Enhanced in Service Provision

Having solutions available for children to use when confronted with unexpected questions or significant changes in test-taking habits will help relieve some of the uncertainty that students experience during these phases. Teens will face important exams with courage and preparedness thanks to special education tutoring. Children with learning impairment who obtain compensatory education coaching are much more comfortable in the classroom than children who do not. Such satisfaction can result in fewer behavioral issues, such as Anger, Depression, Frustration, and Anxiety. Similarly, tutors can help students define their specific learning styles through an individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.), allowing them to learn how to become and stay responsible for their learning needs.

Trying to interpret information while keeping up with the rest of the group can be difficult. Students with special needs frequently panic as instructors and peers advance to new concepts and skills, particularly when a new study is scheduled to expand on formerly bestowed knowledge. When such learners have admittance to compensatory education coaching, they will have plenty of opportunities to revisit challenging subject matter, practice new techniques for correctly conceptualizing and comprehending certain subjects, and plan for the transition to more complex content.

Best Skills and Practices Developed

While all school districts want to narrow the performance gap and improve results for learners with special needs and others who fail, school and district policies are not always coordinated to accomplish this goal. Districts that emphasize outcomes have been effective in raising performance for students with special needs and other students who struggle.

Students’ significant developments include concerning consultation; local educational agencies (L.E.A.s) are now expected to meet with private institution administrators before performing child discovery activities in private institutions (DREDF, 2021). Similarly, there is no individual right to care since school districts are required to offer a genuine opportunity for equal inclusion in their special education program for impaired private institution learners who are parentally placed and who reside within their district.

Each child must have a written Individual Educational Plan (I.E.P.) created by a team comprised of the teacher, parents, and other individuals with specialized training and experience working with disabled children. Among the accommodations that can be used are illuminated textbooks, additional time for exams or tasks, peer help with note-taking, and regular feedback (Gargiulo & Bouck, 2019). Additional approaches include an additional collection of the workbook for home study, computer-assisted teaching, expanded print, conclusive reinforcement, and conduct modification schedules. Class schedule reorganization for visual aids, desired seating arrangements, lecture recording, oral examinations, and individual contracts are also included.

Students who struggle to meet grade-level expectations need more time for instruction to catch up and keep up with their peers. This extra time can be used to pre-teach content, reteach the day’s lesson, fix missed foundational skills, and correct misunderstandings at both the elementary and secondary levels. Many schools have added counselors, social workers, or paraprofessionals to address students’ social, emotional, and behavioral needs to increase demand for these services.


Although law-driven school reform programs have fallen short of their full potential, they have resulted in significant educational gains. Not only does special education tutoring help students change how they handle learning, but it also allows them to gain a better understanding of themselves and how their minds work. Children are more capable of asking for support when they need it and pushing for teaching and testing approaches that will enhance their lifelong learning experiences.


Alvarado, J. L., & Rodriguez, C. D. (2018). Education of students with disabilities as a result of equal opportunity legislation. In The Palgrave Handbook of Education Law for Schools (pp. 297-314). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) 347 U.S. 483

Chiamulera, C. (2017). The Court’s Role in Supporting Education for court-involved Children. Retrieved 28 April 2021, from https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_interest/child_law/resources/child_law_practiceonline/child_law_practice/vol-36/nov-dec-2017/the-court-s-role-in-supporting-education-for-court-involved-chil/

DREDF. (2021). A Comparison of A.D.A., IDEA, and Section 504. Retrieved 28 April 2021, from https://dredf.org/legal-advocacy/laws/a-comparison-of-ada-idea-and-section-504/

Gargiulo, R. M., & Bouck, E. C. (2019). Special education in contemporary society: An introduction to exceptionality. Sage Publications.

Lipkin, P. H., & Okamoto, J. (2015). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for children with special educational needs. Pediatrics136(6), e1650-e1662.

Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia (1971) 348 F. Supp. 866 (D.D.C. 1972)

Mattie T. v. Johnston, 74 F.R.D. 498 (N.D. Miss. 1976)

Paul, C. A. (2016). Elementary and secondary education act of 1965. Social welfare history project.

PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1971) 334 F. Supp. 1257 (E.D. Pa. 1971)

Powell, J. J. (2015). Barriers to inclusion: Special education in the United States and Germany. Routledge.

Seligmann, T. J. (2017). Flags on the play: The Supreme Court takes the field to enforce the rights of students with disabilities. J.L. & Educ.46, 479.