In the early 1970s, almost 2 million students with disabilities were excluded from receiving an education in American public schools, and another 3 million students with disabilities who were admitted to public schools did not receive an education that met their needs. In many cases, families of these students were forced to look elsewhere for appropriate services, often at great expense. The lack of educational programs often led parents and advocates to seek solutions through court actions. This entry covers the primary federal law that ensured the rights of eligible students with disabilities to receive an appropriate public education: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and especially the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of ...

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