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Special Education

Understanding PL 94-142: 5 Ways This Historical Law Has Transformed Education

Public Law 94-142, also known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, was a landmark federal law that shaped the lives of many special education students and teachers. PL 94-142 was the origin of the law that many educators now know as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Foundational to students receiving a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), PL 94-142 has aided schools in providing equal access to education for over 7.5 million children with disabilities.  

For special educators, PL 94-142 became a critical piece of legislation because it provided them the necessary legal foundations for providing quality instruction to students. Specific requirements must be met for schools to receive federal funding to provide services to students with disabilities, including developing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students, creating safe learning environments, and providing appropriate accommodations.  

In this blog, we are going to dive deep into this historic law and discuss its provisions which were so impactful that they carried into IDEA, the law’s updated form. We are going to look at 5 specific takeaways from this law that you can apply to your classroom today: 

  1. Students with disabilities are guaranteed the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  
  2. Schools are required to develop IEPs for all students with disabilities that fall under eligibility of the IDEA. 
  3. Special education teachers must provide appropriate accommodations and modifications to ensure students have equal access to education.  
  4. Teachers must create secure learning environments for students. 
  5. Schools must stay in compliance with all legal requirements pertaining to students with disabilities.  

Keep reading to see how each of these mandates still apply to you today and can make a meaningful impact for you as an educator. 

1. Students are guaranteed the right to FAPE. 

The term “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE) is defined in PL 94-142 as providing special education and related services that meet the individual needs of a child with a disability. It also includes ensuring access to all educational opportunities afforded by the school district, including extracurricular activities, socialization, and physical education. Schools also should provide access to the educational environment, resources, and services that are needed for a child with a disability to advance in their education alongside their similar-aged peers.  

FAPE helps children with disabilities succeed by providing them with the necessary resources and services they need to make meaningful progress in their education. PL 94-142 outlined the need for teachers to create Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) tailored to each student’s needs and provide the accommodations that allow them to access the same education as other students. The law was eye opening in the education industry and has been carried into the amended legislation that educators use today.  

2. Schools are Required to Provide IEPs.

IEPs are detailed plans created by special education teachers that outline the specific goals, objectives, instructional strategies, and accommodations needed to support a student’s educational progress. The IEP is an important document used by schools to ensure that children with disabilities receive the appropriate level of instruction and services they need to succeed in their education. 

PL 94-142 created the requirement for schools to develop IEPs for all students with a disability that falls under the 13 areas of eligibility under IDEA and provided a guideline for developing effective plans that are tailored to each student’s needs. These 13 areas include: 

  1. Hearing impairment (including deafness) 
  2. Visual impairment (including blindness) 
  3. Speech or language impairment 
  4. Orthopedic impairment 
  5. Other health impairment (OHI) 
  6. Intellectual disability 
  7. Specific learning disability (SLD) 
  8. Serious emotional disturbance 
  9. Autism/Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 
  10. Traumatic brain injury 
  11. Deaf-blindness 
  12. Multiple disabilities 
  13. Developmental delay 

The law also required IEPs to be developed by a team of professionals, including the student’s parent or guardian and other qualified professionals, in order to ensure that each plan is comprehensive and includes all necessary services. These plans must be reviewed regularly throughout the year to meet compliance standards. 

3. Accommodations and Modifications are Mandatory.

PL 94-142 began the movement for schools to provide accommodations and modifications to students that need them for enhancement of their educational experience.  

Examples of accommodations and modifications include providing additional time on tests or assignments, offering smaller class sizes, providing extra tutoring or specialized instruction, using assistive technology to support learning, allowing alternate assignments for students with disabilities, and more.  

Accommodations and modifications apply not only to the student’s regular education classroom, but also to elective classrooms (such as physical education, art, etc.) cafeterias, and other school sponsored extracurricular activities that the student participates in. Education reaches beyond the scope of just the regular education classroom and includes peer interaction and involvement, and accommodations and modifications should reflect that principle.  

4. Teachers must create secure learning environments.

PL 94-142 required teachers to create a non-discriminatory environment for their students. Today, both regular education and special education classrooms are required to provide students with the reasonable accommodations they need while taking their safety into account, including taking steps to prevent unnecessary or inappropriate physical restraints.  

Additionally, teachers must develop behavior intervention plans tailored to each student’s needs when necessary. These plans are designed to encourage positive behavior and provide students with resources needed to address any behavioral issues that may arise.  

5. Legal requirements must be closely followed.

PL 94-142 gave greater accountability to school districts to oversee the implementation of special education laws, including the urgent need for FAPE. Special educators now must review IEPs regularly to ensure they are up-to-date and adequately meet the student’s educational needs.  

Schools also must provide training for teachers, staff, and administrators on special education law, including IDEA, and its requirements. Finally, schools are required to create a system for monitoring and evaluating the special education programs in their districts to ensure compliance with the law. Special educators, therefore, play a vital role in ensuring special education law is implemented properly.  

Although PL 94-142 has become the IDEA, the main provisions and mandates behind the vital special education law remain. The end goal is to provide improved educational outcomes for students with disabilities to educate them both in the regular education and special education classroom. It’s because of the creation of this law that 7.5 million students have had the opportunity to receive the special education services they needed to succeed in their schooling and their post-secondary life 

Write IEPs with Euna K-12 Admin to Ensure Compliance with Special Education Law 

If you are involved in a child’s IEP, you know how tedious and painstaking this process can be. Euna K-12 Admin, powered by SpedTrack, streamlines the special education process while helping districts stay compliant every step of the way.  

Euna can help make the IEP process run smoothly. Our platform can empower your entire team to maintain compliance from referral through dismissal.  

Request a demo today to see why Euna is the best choice for assisting you with creating and managing IEPs.  


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Learn how to find the right solutions partner to enhance your ERP, save time and resources, and ultimately deliver a greater impact on the communities you serve.

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