chapter  Chapter 3
23 Pages

The Dilemma of Compulsory Attendance and the Construction of the Special Class

WithJohn G. Richardson

This chapter describes the organizational dilemmas generated by enacting compulsory attendance. Compulsory attendance necessitated a shared responsibility between parental and school authority, based in the concept of “in loco parentis”. Schools were required to conduct a census of those enrolled and to monitor their attendance. The transformation of the reformatory and industrial school toward a vocational purpose was a change as significant for the common school as it was for reformatory institutions. The classifications developed within the reform school were mirrored in the common school’s ungraded or special class for truants and incorrigibles. The national stature of these investigations was further stimulus to a systematic academic inquiry into the problems of retardation in city school systems. The attendance laws committed state school system to the support and administration of a system of public education. The genesis of special education began at the city level and centered on the problem of school “laggards” as the symbol of school inefficiency.