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The Convergence of Disability Law and Policy: Core Concepts, Ethical Communities, and the Notion of Dignity

Interview with Rud Turnbull
Produced by Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities

Public Law 94-142: A Model Statute for Special Education

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Rud Turnbull: My first work in the field of special education was to write a model statute, state statute, with colleagues at the Council for Exceptional Children. That model statute then became the basis on which I began to write the North Carolina Special Education law. I was working at a branch of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, working for a Senator, Bill Creech, a graduate of Georgetown Law School and University of North Carolina. And Bill Creech came into my office one day and said, "The people at CEC say you can write a statute. Why don't you write a law for the State of North Carolina?" So I did.

So here we begin with a model statute, then it becomes a state law, and then Congress begins to take the issue of education in its hands, and it passes Public Law 94-142. Now the question is, once you pass the law, how do you implement it? And this was the responsibility of what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The Department convened a group of people to advise them on the regulations to implement this statute, and my friends at the CEC, Fred Weintraub and Al Abeson, called me up and said, "We want you to serve on this regulation input team," and I said, "Well, I will, but only if you are going to be there." And they said, "Well, the three of us will be the Three Musketeers and we'll see what we can do to write some decent regulations."

The regulation input team consisted maybe of 50 or so people. Abeson, Weintraub, and I were assigned to the procedural safeguard section and due process. We weren't getting very far with some of our colleagues. One night after meeting all day, though, we adjourned to, I think it was Abeson's home or it could have been Weintraub's home, in Reston, Virginia. And these guys, it's the middle of summer, take off their shirts, got get down to their T-shirts, offer a beer. We started to have a beer.

And they said all right, let's write the procedural due process regulations. And between about 10 o'clock at night and 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, we wrote the regulations for the procedural due process provisions of Public Law 94-142. Those regulations have not been changed since we wrote them in 1976 with one exception, and that is that every time Congress changes the protections for students in discipline, we have had to rewrite those regulations. I say we, the field has had to rewrite those regulations. So, a model statute, a state law, the regulations for IDEA.

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