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University of St. Francis logo · College of Education · Regional Educational Academy for Leadership

Legal and Historical Foundations in Special Education
EEND and MEDU-641

  • Template 2015
  • Section TMPL
  • 3 Credits
  • 07/22/2015 to 07/22/2115
  • Modified 08/15/2023

Mission Statement

As a Catholic university rooted in the liberal arts, we are a welcoming community of learners challenged by Franciscan values and charism, engaged in a continuous pursuit of knowledge, faith, wisdom, and justice, and ever mindful of a tradition that emphasizes reverence for creation, compassion and peacemaking. We strive for academic excellence in all programs, preparing women and men to contribute to the world through service and leadership. 


Includes the historical foundations, history of provision of services, major movements, current issues, and philosophical changes in general and special education. State, federal laws, litigation, policies, and administrative practices relevant to education and treatment of individuals with disabilities and their relation to learning and instruction will be examined.


College of Education Mission

The mission of the College of Education is to prepare competent and caring educators who understand students, serve the community and develop professionally to become ethical decision-makers and leaders.

Understanding Students

Understand the forces that influence the development and provision of today’s special educational services for individuals with disabilities.

Serving the Community

Understand how to communicate the legal policies and regulations to parents and educators. Writing on a legal issue and highlighting the practical applications help understand the collaboration involved in special education and serve the community.

Finding Our Professional Selves

Understanding the foundations of special education will help in developing professionally. Papers written on history, legal issue and philosophy will help identify the foundations of special education and clarify own beliefs in special education process.


Access to standards referenced in this section can be found HERE

By the conclusion of the course, each participant will be able to do the following (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and Illinois Professional Teaching Standards (IPTS):

  1. Describe historical perspectives, legislative history, models, theories, and philosophies that provide the basis for general and special education practice. (NBPTS 2)
  2. Analyze current legislative regulations, policies, litigation, and ethical issues related to the provision of educational services, including: least restrictive environment, free and appropriate education, due process, assessment, discipline, transition, related services and assistive technology, to individuals with all types of disabilities. (NBPTS 2, IPTS 4F, CEC 2, 6)
  3. Describe the major provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Education and Privacy Act, the No Child left Behind Act of 2001, and other federal and state laws affecting the education of students with disabilities. (NBPTS 2, IPTS 7N, CEC 6)
  4. Identify and explain the major principles of the IDEA. (NBPTS 2, IPTS 8I, 9B, CEC 6)
  5. Identify and explain the major litigation leading to the passage of the IDEA. (CEC 6)
  6. Discuss and evaluate the major court rulings on the IDEA. (NBPTS 2, IPTS 9F)
  7. Explain the rights and responsibilities of parents, students, teachers, and other professionals and schools as they relate to an individual’s learning needs and educational programs. (NBPTS 12, 14; IPTS 8I, 9B, 9F)
  8. Critically discuss and evaluate legal trends in special education. (CEC 6)
  9. Develop legally sound policies and procedures with respect to special education in accordance with the legislation and litigation. (IPTS 8I, 9B, CEC 6)
  10. Locate sources of information regarding legislation and litigation in special education. (CEC 6)
  11. Understand and explain issues and trends in special education across the life span, early childhood through adult services. (CEC 6)
  12. Examine legal mandates by tracing their historic roots and highlighting their implications in the classroom. (NBPTS 13, IPTS 6E, 9S, 9T, CEC 6)
  13. Examine historic roots of disabilities and trends in philosophy, treatment and education. (IPTS 6E, 9S, 9T)


Weekly Class Discussions: Students will be expected to engage in active, professional participation in discussions of legal mandates at federal and state level, case law and its applications. Students will also have case studies to read/discuss/review. Discussion should indicate active participation (see online discussion checklist).

Course Outcomes: 2, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11

Standards: NBPTS 2, 12, 14; IPTS 4, 7, 8, 9; CEC 2, 6

Chapter Quizzes: A multiple choice & true/false test, covering Chapters 1 to 14 in the textbook will be on Canvas. Each quiz can be taken multiple times. The purpose of the quiz is to ensure mastery of the content covered in each chapter. Each quiz requires a passing score of 80% and is worth 5 points each.

Course Outcomes: 3, 8, 10, 11, 13.

Standards: NBPTS 2; IPTS 6, 9; CEC 6

History of a Disability Paper: Research the history of a specific disability (of choice) from the beginning to the present. Develop a timeline using any online software and write a formal reflection paper on the history.

Course Outcomes: 3, 8, 10, 11, 13.

Standards: NBPTS 2; IPTS 6, 9; CEC 6

Legal Research Paper: A synthesis of at least five source articles/reports pertaining to the area of personal inquiry will be completed using the format provided. Synthesis should include an historical perspective for the issue, pertinent federal and state law policy, legal case precedent, and application of the issue at the district, building or classroom level.

Course Outcomes: 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.

Standards: NBPTS 12, 13, 14; IPTS 6, 8, 9; CEC 6

Applied Project: Candidates will apply their legal knowledge and skills to create a practical training module for administrators or staff or parents (3 options). See options & descriptions online for the applied project.

Course Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9.

Standards: NBPTS 2; IPTS 4, 7, 8, 9; CEC 2, 6.

Institutional Policies

Students should use the MyUSF portal as the first resource for guidance and support on items such as student complaints, safety, security and transportation questions, contact information for various USF departments, student support services such as counseling and academic resources. Information on these resources can be found in the For Students section of the MyUSF portal.

  • A complete listing of university policies and procedures can be found in the University of St. Francis Catalog and Student Handbooks. Students are expected to follow all policies in the USF Catalog and Student Handbook, both of which can be found in the student portal.
  • Students are expected to be familiar with and follow the various procedures and guidelines regarding USF’s COVID-19 Response, including the USF Preparedness Plan and other materials incorporated in the Saints United resource hub (
  • Policies not covered in this document will be handled in accordance with the USF Catalog, Student Handbook, and Program Handbook as applicable.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity requires that all academic work be wholly the product of an identified individual or individuals. Collaboration is only acceptable when it is explicitly acknowledged. Ethical conduct is the obligation of every member of the University community, and breaches of academic integrity constitute serious offenses. Since a lack of integrity hinders the student’s academic development, it cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. Violations include but are not limited to: cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, plagiarism, and denying others access to information or material. See the University of St. Francis Catalog for further clarification and information on grievance procedures.

Services and Accommodations for Students with Disabilities (ADA)

The University strives to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA). A student who requires special accommodations or arrangements due to a disability should contact the Office of Accessibility Services. This contact preferably should occur no later than the first week of classes. Early contact before the semester starts is encouraged to allow sufficient time to provide accommodations. Extra time is needed for some types of accommodations such as sign language interpreters or special text formatting. Should a need arrive after the start of a semester; the student is encouraged to contact the Office of Accessibility Services as soon as possible. Note that accommodations are not retroactive. Each case will be reviewed on an individual basis to determine reasonable and appropriate accommodations.

USF is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs, regardless of the course format. If you have a documented disability and need a reasonable accommodation to participate in a course, complete course requirements, or benefit from the University’s programs or services, please contact the Office of Accessibility Services at 815-740-3631 or [email protected] . The Office of Accessibility Services is located on the third floor of Tower Hall in room N320. Consultations are welcome; please contact the Office of Accessibility Services for an appointment.

Technology Support

If you are experiencing any difficulty using Canvas or need technical assistance, you have several options to receive support:

  1. 24x7 Live Canvas Support. Canvas has a 24 hour support by clicking on ? Help while in Canvas. You can Chat with Canvas Support, Report a Problem, or call the Canvas Support Hotline. If you experience technical difficulties or have a question about Canvas, you can receive support 24 hours a day seven (7) days a week through the Canvas help menu. From the help menu; select Report a Problem to send an email support request, select Chat with Canvas Support (Student) for a “live” text-based click-to-chat session, or to speak to someone directly use the toll-free number listed under the Canvas Support Hotline (Student). NOTE: Responses to Canvas’ email based Report a Problem request system will go to your USF email account, NOT your personal email.
  2. Online Self-Service Help Resources. A student user guide and other resources for solving issues related to Canvas can be found at
  3. You can phone the Technology Support Center for personal help at (815) 768-8324 or (866) 337-1497 (toll-free) between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM Central Standard Time, Monday through Friday or fill out a Technology Support Center ticket and select Canvas/Online courses as the component.

For any technical support issues that are not related to Canvas, you can also contact the USF Technology Support Center (TSC). You can reach them via:

Academic Support Services

The Academic Resource Center (ARC) located in Room N316 in Tower Hall (815-740-5060 or [email protected]) offers various types of academic services.  Online and distance learning students can contact ARC for appropriate resources.  ARC serves students who need tutoring in many areas of study including writing and math.  Library services include a number of online services and full text databases.  Call the Library at 815-740-5041 for additional information.  If you need academic-related resources or assistance, please contact the Academic Resource Center.