Since 1973, many schools have learned to provide educational opportunities for many children with disabilities who had been traditionally left out or ignored. These changes were driven by many people who had a vision of community that included all children and a vision of democracy that included all voices.
Many of these people were parents of children with disabilities who brought court cases and who lobbied politicians and policy makers at all levels. Their victories often came too late to benefit their own children but expanded educational opportunities for millions of others.
One of their achievements is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in education or employment programs that receive our tax dollars.
As a condition of receiving federal funding, the Department of Education requires schools to affirm that they use the federal money to educate all children, to use the federal funds equitably.
After S. 504 became law, it was no longer acceptable or lawful for school policies and practices to privilege some students and disenfranchise others by creating or ignoring conditions or policies that excluded, isolated, stigmatized or created or ignored barriers to a free and appropriate public education.
However compliance and enforcement in many school districts is inconsistent and ineffective. Many school officials do not recognize their conditions or policies as discriminatory barriers. Don't let school officials or policy makers use "unfunded mandate" to deny your child the right to a free and appropriate public education. Educate. Advocate.