Inclusion is a philosophy, which public school districts either embrace or they do not.
Special Education Law and empirical research support this type of schooling. Amongst other ideologies, inclusion is about socialization and educational opportunities for students with disabilities while being educated alongside typically developing peers.
A key component to inclusive education is providing students with disabilities the proper supports and services necessary to benefit from education. Such supports and services could include appropriately trained personnel to assist, alternative/augmentative communication devices, speech and language services, adaptive physical education, and modifications to the curriculum to name a few.
School districts who attempt to embrace inclusive education like to name their inclusive efforts because it makes them feel good; I have seen some names such as collaborative inclusion class, inclusion class, inclusion program, etc. If school districts have classes named "inclusive," then surely they have classes that are excluded.
Back to the original point, too many school districts fall way too short in providing appropriate supports and services to students with disabilities. Many of these districts claim that inclusion is not working and force students into more segregated classrooms. I have found, districts (general education and special education teachers and principals included) have failed to make sure students individual needs are met before pushing kids into segregated classes.
Students with disabilities are entitled to receive an inclusive education.
I was recently confronted with this exact situation (again). A student of mine is in a classroom, which the district touts as a "collaborative inclusion" model program nationally renowned. Her parents were happy with her education, but the district said she was not making enough progress. She should be placed in a segregated classroom (with very little opportunity to interact with peers without disabilities) where her needs will be met.
The student was provided with some supports in this "collaborative inclusive program," however; the district said the placement was not appropriate for her. How can they say this without trying all (or at least some) the things we know work for inclusive education?? Bottom-line for this particular school's inclusion program: "We only want the easy-to-include-kids!"
They did not acknowledge their failure to implement supports/services that might make the student more successful in the classroom. The adults in the classroom were not appropriately trained and did not have the skills to assist this student given this child's needs. The student was supposedly communicating with an ancient device, which served its purpose long ago.
The district's answer? Shove her in a segregated classroom "where all her needs will be met." I exercised the parent's rights for further assessment, yada, yada, yada. Thus, this particular school district was held accountable to providing the appropriate supports and services for this child to succeed in her current classroom. This district? Not embracing inclusion.
-Lisa L. Nelson, JD, Special Education Advocate
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