For a few years now we’ve wanted to do a historical perspective of special education. And for a few years now, we’ve started but then things get murky with the time line or we get super busy, or things happen that need our attention.
And then Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed on Friday while we were spit balling some ideas for a blog. It goes without saying the world of special education we have walked into since 2012 has been influenced in educating students with disabilities because of Justice Ginsberg and her rulings as a part of the United States Supreme Court.
For those who were not born in the United States: The United States Supreme Court is the ‘end of the road’ for specific types of court cases offered. Until the death of Justice Ginsburg, there were nine seated justices. The Supreme Court is responsible for legal issues in the entire country. There additional adjunct duties, specifically to the role of Chief Justice, but overall the Supreme Court, which is outlined in the United States Constitution, is its own entity from the other two branches of Federal Government (Executive and Legislative). To be a seated Justice on the court, the President nominates a potential justice and that justice is then subjected to interviews by the Senate, part of the Legislative branch. Upon recommendation by the Judiciary Committee, a potential justice is then either voted or not voted to the bench. Justices can serve indefinitely, unlike any other branch of the Federal government. Justices have a choice to be with the Majority, with the Minority, or neutral when they write opinions, or decisions about or not a particular case is decided.
Justice Ginsberg was seated after her confirmation hearing by the Senate in 1993 and served until her death, hearing cases even at a distance during COVID-19. She was the second woman after Sandra Day O’Connor to be seated. After Justice O’Connor retired in 2006, Ginsberg was the sole woman on the court until Justice Sotomayor was confirmed in 2009.
Olmsted vs. LC, 1999
For those with intellectual disabilities, prior to this ruling, it was not uncommon for a person with an intellectual disability to be placed somewhere other than the community they grew up in. For the two representatives, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, they were living in a hospital. They did have permission to live in a more community-based setting, but they had not transitioned to one.
Olmsted was decided in favor of LC. ADA – Americans with Disability Act, according to the Majority opinion, had been violated.
The decision reminded States that they needed to have a plan for adults with disabilities with the least restrictive settings.
Ginsburg wrote the Majority Opinion. She said that the long hospitalization was harmful to the women, and other people with intellectual disabilities. In writing this opinion, Justice Ginsburg supported that people with disabilities belonged in their communities as much as possible.
If you want more information about Olmsted, check this out from the Health and Human Services.
But you’re a blog about K-12 education….
Here’s the part of our blog we don’t talk about truly enough—our students graduate and become adults. Life is this unstoppable train. Our students need our support to get to that goal. Without the Olmsted Decision, our students are void of a community that supports their existence. Education is about giving students skills to be a member of their community and demonstrate that we always have space.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.