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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas




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Special Education

The offices of the Wyandotte Comprehensive Special Education Cooperative are now located in the Education Center.  Following are brief excerpts relative to the history of Special Education in the KCKs Public Schools.

Excerpts have been taken from:

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Special Education by Throckmorton

The Kansas Society for Exceptional Children, composed of lay and professional persons, was organized in the mid-1940's for the purpose of obtaining legislation to provide special services for the education of handicapped and other non-typical children.  The movement was supported by the Kansas Council for Children and Youth, the Kansas State Teachers Association, the State Federated Women's Clubs, the Congress of Parents and Teachers, the State Department of Public Instruction and other groups concerned for the educational welfare of all children.

[Annotation: Kansas State Federated Women's Clubs - In the early 1900s is when the Kansas Federation of Women's Clubs established traveling libraries throughout the state of Kansas. The Hoxie Fortnightly Club ( Kansas ) served as one of the first libraries by taking advantage of the deal of 50 books for six months for $2.00.]

[Annotation:  Congress of Parents and Teachers - byname Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) - American organization concerned with the educational, social, and economic well-being of children. The PTA was founded on Feb. 17, 1897, as the National Congress of Mothers; membership was later broadened to include teachers, fathers, and other citizens.]

[Annotation:  Kansas State Teachers Association - A teachers' association was formed at Leavenworth March 14, 1863. The State Teachers' Association was organized at Leavenworth September 29, 1863.]

The activities of these organizations, in keeping with nationwide interest in such programs, produced legislation in 1949 which authorized the creation of a special education section in the Department of Public Instruction, and the formation of special classes in school districts. A modest appropriation was made with which to finance the new activity, and the state superintendent was directed to appoint a director and other personnel.  However, the first appropriations for the reimbursement of school districts that organized special classes were not made until 1951

The special education staff functions under the philosophy that the objectives of education for exceptional children do not differ from the objectives of education for other children.  Generally speaking, these objectives are self-realization, human relationships, economic efficiency, and civic responsibility.  The role of the special education section, since its organization in 1949, has been to provide consultative services to schools, and to assist them in establishing programs for exceptional children; develop standards for specialized instruction at the highest possible level of quality; and administer state financial aid to local districts to compensate them for the excess costs of providing educational opportunity for non-typical children.

Special education programs are established by school districts on a voluntary basis, and the enrollment of children in such classes is not mandatory.  The voluntary features of the law account in part for the comparatively slow progress made in organizing classes immediately following enactment of the 1949 legislation.  Other problems faced by this section in its early promotional work were financing at the district level, inadequate space in existing school facilities for special classes, a short supply of qualified teachers, areas of sparse population, an oversupply of school districts, indifference, and in some instances, local opposition.

Supplementary legislation in 1951 made provision for funds with which to reimburse school districts that established classes for the mentally retarded, or provided instruction for homebound children.

In 1953 the Legislature more explicitly defined exceptional children and appropriated funds for districts that provide special instruction for any or all classifications of these children. 

With inauguration of the program in 1949, the statutory definition of exceptional children included those who are intellectually gifted, and extended authority to give such children special full-time or part-time instruction.  The interest in special education for non-typical children continues to grow, and numerous organizations outside the schools are working in the field of mental retardation.  The special education staff members have cooperated with universities and colleges in developing teacher education opportunities in this field, and have worked closely with personnel in the United States Office of Education.

The report of one study conducted by Dr. Marguerite Thorsell of the special education staff, in cooperation with the Washington agency, was released in 1963.  This was an experiment in providing specialized instruction for mentally retarded children in regular classroom settings by teachers, who had no special preparation for such teaching.  The need for discovering effective methods of giving such instruction to handicapped children in regular classroom situations is readily apparent in sparsely settled areas, which are divided into numerous small school districts.  In such instances, there is an insufficient number of children to justify the employment of specially trained teachers, who are in short supply.  The three-year supply was conducted in the western half of Kansas where, in 1957, there were only nine classes for educable mentally retarded children.

Because of limitations that could not be eliminated, the overall purpose of the study was not substantiated by analysis of the data collected through the evaluation program.  However, much was learned about the problem of providing special education services in sparsely populated areas, and the need for continued investigation of the possibilities was clearly demonstrated.

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Special Education by Nellie McGuinn, 1961

1916 - Prescott School:  September - 7th and 8th grades to junior high (Junior High School, later called Central Middle School).  Room for deaf established.  Miss Keturah Stevens, teacher.  Served whole city.

1917 - Prescott School: One room in building used as Red Cross headquarters during World War I.

1925 - Prescott School: First Open Air Room in Kansas opened in Prescott.  Edna Griffis in charge.  Sponsored by Junior Red Cross, but Board furnished room.  Twenty children selected by school nurses in first class.  Had dietician to plan meals.

1929 - Prescott School: Board said would continue Open Air room as long as had funds.

1932 - Prescott School: Deaf Room and Open Air discontinued.

1935 - Prescott School: First WPA nursery school in Kansas City, Kansas, established at Prescott for working mothers.  Mrs. Mary Jansen and five assistants in charge.

1939 - School for Retarded Children established by Mrs. Fred Green, assisted by Mrs. J. Enloe.  Not part of school system, but Board furnished room and janitor service.  Moved in 1939 to Kansas City, Missouri by Mrs. Enloe.

To be continued . . . .

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Special Education by Dr. Oren L. Plucker, 1987

1966 - Mark Twain:  Completed in 1966 was an early, but major step, in provision of facilities for handicapped children. Two classrooms at Mark Twain were sound treated and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for instruction of hearing impaired children. Individual radio receivers worn by each child made communication, even on the playground, possible for children brought to that school from various parts of the district.

To be continued . . .

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History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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