The United States reiterates its great pleasure to attend this Third Conference of States Parties, and is highly appreciative that our Round Table today is focused on Inclusion and the Right to Education. To quote a nineteenth century American educator, “Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” (Edward Everett) Education is the vector for all human development, is foundational to society, and is a predicate to the full enjoyment of a wide range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including political participation, freedom of expression, and access to employment. Providing children, youth, and adults with disabilities a right to education without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity is critical to achieving the core principles of the Convention, including inclusion, respect for dignity, autonomy and independence, and respect for children.
Although education in the United States is provided largely by state and local governments, federal laws extend the reach of the federal government over the states’ provision of public education to children with disabilities through the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), first enacted in 1975. These statutes recognize and protect the rights of persons with disabilities to be educated, to the extent appropriate to their needs, with their non-disabled peers. Under these laws public elementary and secondary school systems – as well as private schools receiving federal funding — must provide children with disabilities a “free appropriate public education” designed to meet their individual needs and in the most integrated setting appropriate. Through the IDEA, eligible children are entitled to appropriate special education and related services, early intervention, and supplementary aids and supports generally from age 3 through 21, that is through high school graduation. The number of children with disabilities receiving special education and related services, aged 6 through 21, increased from 3,288,534 in 1976 to 5,889,849 in 2008; for those aged 3 through 5, the numbers increased from 196,223 in 1976 to 709,004 in 2008.
The United States is pleased to make available additional information about our laws aimed at achieving the goal of inclusive and equal education for children with disabilities in the United States. In turn, we look forward to learning about and from the actions that other States Parties and signatories are taking. Thank you.
• Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B
(20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq.) (34 CFR Part 300 – Department of Education’s implementing regulation)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B (IDEA) (formerly P.L. 94-142 or the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975) requires public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs.
IDEA requires public school systems to develop appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each child with a disability who requires special education and related services. The specific special education and related services outlined in each IEP reflect the individualized needs of each student. IDEA also requires that particular procedures be followed in the development of the IEP. Each student’s IEP must be developed by a team of knowledgeable persons and must be reviewed at least annually. The team includes the child’s teacher; the parents, subject to certain very limited exceptions; the child, if determined appropriate; an agency representative who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education; and other individuals at the parents’ or agency’s discretion. If parents disagree with the proposed IEP, they can request a due process hearing and a review from the state educational agency if applicable in that state. They also can appeal the state agency’s decision to state or federal court.