Exploring the Paths of Missouri’s Special Education: A Study | KBIA

Exploring the Paths of Missouri’s Special Education: A Study | KBIA

It shouldn't matter if it is a rural school or a rich suburban school.  In fact, the rich suburban school rarely provides the education that a special education student needs and only caters to advanced students.

 But inclusion isn’t actually written into the law. Instead, schools
are required to provide a free, appropriate education in a least
restrictive environment. But what’s appropriate? What’s restrictive?

The answer- it depends. The state, school district, or the parents define these terms.

Dr. George Giuliani is the executive director at the National
Association of Special Education Teachers. He said understanding the
definition of least restrictive environment comes down to the child.

“It’s the requirement that children with disabilities must be
educated with those without disabilities to the maximum extent that it
is appropriate for that particular child,” Giuliani said.

He said the concept of “free appropriate public education” was the
focus of a 1982 court case, Petitioners v. Amy Rowley. While the school
felt Amy was doing fine, her parents thought she could do even better
with a sign language interpreter. But the court decided that wasn’t the
expectation of the school.

“What is the standard? And in a sense should we be maximizing the
potential of students with disabilities? And it was the decision of the
U.S. Supreme Court that that was never the intention of Congress, to
maximize the potential of students because that’s not the standard that
we use for general education students. The standard is we have to
provide an appropriate education not a best education,” Giuliani said.

Ideally, Giuliani said the law would be more specific. But he said
requiring a poor rural school to live up to rules set by a rich urban
school wouldn’t work, either. So the law remains broad with specific
mandates to ensure the rights of children with disabilities.

“They lay out, very specifically what is mandated in terms of what
teachers and administrators and school districts must do for children to
protect their particular rights,” Giuliani said. “But in terms of how
to do it, that’s often left broad and left to the states, actually.”

And while inclusion isn’t written into the law, Giuliani said not
including students with disabilities in the same building as regular
education students isn’t the norm.

“We want these students in our buildings now, the idea of segregation
of children with disabilities is really now a very foreign concept
because what is known is that 95 percent of all students with
disabilities are educated in the general education building,” Giuliani
said. “And that’s tremendous when you look back 50 years ago that just
was not the case at all.”

Despite the Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled being unique
to the state, 2.9 percent of students with special needs in Missouri are
served in separate schools, which matches the national average.

The 2006 study found 78 percent of the 36 U.S. states that responded
to the study had “multiple entities responsible for administering
educational services to students with severe disabilities,” including
single school districts, multi-district cooperatives, and state agencies
(including schools for the deaf and blind).

Nationally, self-contained classrooms in local school districts were
the most common placement for students with severe disabilities.
Twenty-one states said this placement “was either always or often used,”
and 13 other states said it “was used sometimes or rarely.” Regular
education classrooms with supports such as paraprofessionals, who work
one-on-one with the student with special needs, or co-teachers were the
second most common placement.

Last year’s annual report showed 94.8 percent of students with
disabilities in the nation were served in the regular education
classroom for at least part of the school day in Fall 2012. Missouri
fell just one percent below the national average, with 93.8 percent of
the state’s students with special needs making it into the regular
education classroom.


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