“Over the last three decades, the philosophy and practice of inclusive schools has grown from minimal awareness to a recognized bedrock component of schools around the globe that insist on the dual standards of excellence and equity for all students. Yet, there is still confusion and widely varying definitions of the ‘inclusion’. The lack of a commonly held understanding of the important practice actually impedes further progress for students, their families and the educators who teach them.
Simply stated, inclusive education means that all students are full and accepted members of their school community, in which their educational setting is the same as their nondisabled peers, whenever appropriate.
While federal legislation regarding education for students with disabilities does not include the terms ‘inclusion’ or ‘inclusive education’, the Least Restrictive Environment requirement from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, provides the basis for our understanding, practice, and legal interpretations.
What the Legislation Requires
Specifically, public agencies must “ensure that..
(i) To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities are educated with children who are nondisabled and
(ii) Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the general educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in the regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. (IDEA regulations, Part 300/B/ 300.114 (a) (2) .
Further, the child’s placement must be:
(1) Determined at least annually;
(2) Based on the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP);
(3) Is as close as possible to the child’s home;
(c) Unless the IEP of a child with a disability requires some other arrangement, the child is educated in the school that he or she would attend if nondisabled.
(d) In selecting the LRE, consideration is given to any potential harmful effect on the child or on the quality of services that he or she needs; and
(e) A child with a disability is not removed from education in age-appropriate regular classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general education curriculum. (Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(5)) (Sec. 300.116. (b-e).
IDEA regulations also address the importance of participation with non-disabled peers in non-academic settings and activities.
In providing or arranging for the provision of nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, including meals, recess periods, ….each public agency must ensure that each child with a disability participates with nondisabled children in extracurricular services and activities to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of that child. (300.117.)
These are three small but very powerful sections of IDEA regulations that provide a common set of rules regarding education and non-academic settings for students with disabilities. From the legislative guidance described above, we are able to identify some very basic and very important guiding principles for LRE and thus for inclusive education.” Read more…