The equal protection Clause of the 14th amendment has been instrumental in shaping many court cases and federal statutes that are directed towards preventing discrimination in schools. A judgment of discrimination can be defined as a determination that an individual or a group of individuals, for example African Americans, women, or handicapped people, have been denied constitutional rights. .
The judicial basis for current approaches to the education of students with disabilities also is closely is linked to the civil rights and equal opportunity initiatives. In addition, several specifically targeted statutes address the education of people with disabilities. Three statutes that are particularly important are Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act: Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act: and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Public Law 94-142 was passed by Congress in 1975. The law assures "a free appropriate public education" to all children with disabilities between the ages of three and twenty one. The law is specific in describing the kind and quality of education in stating that each child with a disability is to have an individually planned education. Details of this plan must be spelled out in a written Individualized Education Plan, formulated by general and special education teachers, and subject to the parents approval. Originally the law provided for substantial increases in funding, however the funding authorizations have been lower than the original commitment. .
Then came the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, this act developed tighter specifications for the delivery of education services to children with disabilities. At the time more than half of the children with disabilities were not receiving appropriate educational services. The purpose of IDEA is to make available to all children with disabilities a free appropriate public education.