New ICI Book Marks 60th Anniversary of Minnesota's Special Education Law

Mon Nov 13 2017
Old photograph of children with disabilities drawn from the book cover.

The Institute is marking the 60th anniversary of a legal landmark in special education with the release of a new book by Norena Hale: Dogged Determination: An Anthology of the 1957 Law Requiring Education for Handicapped Children in Minnesota's Public Schools - A First in the Nation. Special Instruction for Handicapped Children of School Age (MN Statutes 1957 131.081) required special education in Minnesota's public schools for children with disabilities. The Minnesota law helped lay the foundation for the later passage of Public Law 94-142, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, which required special education to be provided in all public schools in the U.S. That was a forerunner of the current Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Hale provides historical context and tells the stories of the reformers who got the law passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. She still marvels at the ambition of the law. "With the passage of the Special Instruction for Handicapped Children of School Age bill in 1957, Minnesota became one of the first states to require special education in public schools," Hale observes. "In the state at that time there were no teacher training programs, no Special Education Section at the Minnesota Department of Education, no special education administrators, very limited teaching methods, few teaching materials or curricula, very few national experts to provide guidance, most rural schools had no programs for these children, etc. Most everything had to be created from scratch."

ICI received funding from the Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota Cultural and Heritage Fund, to publish Dogged Determination, which contains stories from people involved in drafting and implementing the 1957 law. The stories were collected by Dr. Evelyn Deno (1911-2005), a University of Minnesota professor and former supervisor for special education in the Minneapolis Public Schools. The book is titled in recognition of her dogged determination to create public school services for children with disabilities and her tenacity to complete the anthology. It is available at various booksellers, including and Barnes and Noble.

For more information about the book, please contact Norena Hale.