On December 2nd, National Special Education Day recognizes changes in federal legislation that led to the nation’s first federal special education law. 

Beginning in 1971, a U.S. District Court case in the District of Columbia, Mills v. Board of Education, ruled it unlawful to deny exceptional children, including those with mental and learning disabilities publicly funded educational opportunities. Court cases like this led to the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act which was signed by President Gerald Ford on November 29th. The federal legislation required states that accept federal money to provide equal access to children with disabilities. Additional protections were added in 1986 to support parents and educators in creating an education plan for children with disabilities. In 1990, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and improved access for all children with developmental delay. Through the years, the act has been enhanced to improve services and standards throughout the educational system.

IDEA Impact

IDEA made education available to all American children and this day honors the progress that has been made in special education. Before IDEA, many individuals with disabilities received little to no education. Schools were not required to make accommodations for children with disabilities. While some states offered special schools, the education and resources were not necessarily equal. Additionally, many parents couldn’t afford to send their children away to a special school.

The law stipulated that children with disabilities had a right to the same free education that every other child had access to. Between the ages of 3 and 21, there are 13 different areas where children may qualify under the IDEA for services. IDEA was instrumental in increasing graduation rates for students with disabilities.

IDEA resulted in many changes beyond bringing students equal education. The integration of students also helps to remove the stigma of disabilities. Another result of IDEA was the stimulation of technology for students with disabilities and for the classrooms. These technologies improved the education of all students. 

HOW TO OBSERVE #SpecialEducationDay

Explore the history of the IDEA legislation and how it has impacted the lives of those with disabilities. Share how IDEA impacted your life or the life of a family member. Use #SpecialEducationDay to post on social media.


Special Education Day was first celebrated in 2005 which was the 30th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. President Gerald Ford signed the law on November 29, 1975. 

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December 2nd History


Publisher, Gnome Press releases American author, Isaac Asimov’s collection of short stories titled I, Robot. In the collection, Asimov puts forth the Three Laws of Robotics for the first time.


The Environmental Protection Agency begins operation.


The first Jarvik-7 artificial heart is permanently implanted into Barney Clark by Dr. William C. Devries.


Directed by David Zucker, the comedy The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad starring Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, and O.J. Simpson premiered in theaters.

December 2nd Birthdays

Charles Ringling – 1863

He was one of the brothers who owned the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Josephine Roche – 1886

Roche was a woman of many firsts – the first policewoman in Colorado, the first woman to run a major coal company. As a business leader and activist, she was also appointed as President Franklin Roosevelt’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.

Charles Wesley – 1891

Wesley is a noted historian of African American history and during his career wrote 24 books covering a broad selection of topics. He earned his doctorate degree from Harvard University, the third African American to do so.

Gianni Versace – 1946

In 1978, the Italian fashion designer founded Versace in Milan, Italy. The luxury fashion design house has an international reputation for quality apparel and leather accessories.