The Education for All Handicapped Children Act: Opening the Schoolhouse Door


Public school education in America is considered a privilege and not a constitutional right. This distinction, however, is blurred by state statutes requiring school attendance or its equivalent for children. Despite the state mandate, a significant number of school age children have never had the chance to go to public school, and an even greater number have received only minimal educational services. For as long as the public school system has been in existence, the handicapped have been neglected. With the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, eight million handicapped children, 1.75 million of whom have never had any public education at all, are guaranteed a free public education.

This landmark legislation and accompanying proposed regulations provide a detailed plan covering all phases of the schooling process, including identifying and placing children, setting educational goals for the handicapped, and setting guidelines for the training of educational personnel. The Act also includes related provisions for funding, and due process safeguards. Although the object of the Act is laudable, its practical effect may scarcely resemble the intended result.

This Note will first analyze the major provisions of the Act and consider what Congress intended to accomplish. Second, this Note will explore the consequences when eight million children exercise their rights. Whether or not these rights will be sustained depends in part on how the Act is implemented. The Act’s success, however, will ultimately depend upon the level of cooperation received from Congress, teachers, the state, and the community.

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