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[Audio] The Impact of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975

Murray State University /

Dr. Peggy Pittman-Munke and Dr. Cindy Clemson, both members of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion at Murray State University, talk with Tracy Ross on the impact of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1975.

You can hear both parts of the two-part conversation below. First, Dr. Clemson and Dr. Pittman-Munke talk about the conditions present for K-12 students in the early 1970s and the concept of “Least Restrictive Environment” in the classroom.

Next, hear Dr. Clemson and Dr. Pittman-Munke discuss Individualized Education plans: ways that parents can play an active role in their child’s special educational needs, along with the importance of early detection of developmental and disability issues.

Part One – IDEA’s Conception

Clemson says before IDEA was passed in the seventies, there were over 1,000,000 children excluded from education entirely because of their disability, and over 3,000,000 more weren’t receiving proper education. Pittman-Munke adds that there were also children with disabilities who grew up entirely in state hospitals.

Thankfully, she says all that began to change with IDEA. She says the civil rights movement could have inspired others to fight for children with disabilities, both physical and mental.

In 1972, Clemson says a Pennsylvania group of parents brought a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the state wasn’t educating their disabled students. They won, and the next year, a similar lawsuit in the District of Columbia met the same outcome. And in 1975, IDEA was finally passed. It allowed states to implement similar laws and earn federal education funding.

Pittman-Munke says privileged parents felt their children were put at a disadvantage when the idea of a “Least Restrictive Environment” integrated students of all ability into the same classroom. She says this is an ongoing fight to this day.

Part Two – Individualized Education Plans

Hear part two of the conversation.

Clemson says IEPs were a part of the original IDEA law in 1975. They’re designed to identify a child’s strengths and weaknesses then finding a way to work with that child’s weaknesses. IEPs also help compensate for those weaknesses, and accommodate them in assignments and standardized tests.

Pittman-Munke adds that the plans also help accommodate students with emotional disorders. She says these plans can vary wildly from student to student. She says as children get older, they’re often asked to participate in meetings over their IEP.

Parents can play a large role in IEPs – they can even have a hand in crafting them, depending on the school.

Clemson says in order to qualify for an IEP, there are 13 specific categories that a student has to fit under. There are also support options under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lastly, Pittman-Munke says if parents suspect at all that their child might have any disability, they should investigate immediately. She says those early services make a difference in setting up a child’s success in the future. 

Tracy started working for WKMS in 1994 while attending Murray State University. After receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees from MSU he was hired as Operations/Web/Sports Director in 2000. Tracy hosted All Things Considered from 2004-2012 and has served as host/producer of several music shows including Cafe Jazz, and Jazz Horizons. In 2001, Tracy revived Beyond The Edge, a legacy alternative music program that had been on hiatus for several years. Tracy was named Program Director in 2011 and created the midday music and conversation program Sounds Good in 2012 which he hosts Monday-Thursday. Tracy lives in Murray with his wife, son and daughter.