Inclusion Initiative: Schools Strive To Integrate Special-Ed Students

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Neil Gonzales in the, Stockton, California
His Junior ROTC uniform and all that goes with it give Milas Thompson
an extra sense of confidence and belonging.

“When I’m in uniform, I feel like I’m a regular person,” said Thompson, 16, who lives with a learning disability.

As much as reading and writing frustrate him, ROTC offers a chance for
him to enjoy something and excel at Manteca’s East Union High School.
The first-year cadet is earning an A-minus. “It’s fun and interesting,” he said. “It’s a new challenge. Each day we do something different.”

Reserve Officers Training Corps is one of the regular classes Milas is
taking this year. That’s in addition to his special-education courses in
language arts and world history.

His 17-year-old sister, Adel’a, takes a similar mix of regular and
special-education subjects at East Union.

That combination in their schooling is a key requirement of the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The 1975 federal law seeks to
integrate special-needs children academically and socially with the
general student population.

Meeting the provisions of IDEA remains a constant struggle for
schools nationwide, though. They also battle with concerns that there is a racial
imbalance in special-eduction programs.

“Many children are being included in general-education events,” said
Ann Cirimele, executive director of the Family Resource Network, which
serves special-needs students and their families in San Joaquin and
surrounding counties. “But we still have a long way to go.”

Still progressing

By 1999, nearly half of special-education students nationwide spent
more than 80 percent of their school day in regular classes, compared with
25 percent in the mid-1980s, a U.S. Department of Education annual report
to Congress in May showed.

While that’s an improvement, there is still progress to be made.
The 1997 update to IDEA and a report by the President’s Commission
on Excellence in Special Education this year both urge the need for disabled
students to be even more involved and progress in a regular curriculum.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles Unified School District launched a
dramatic overhaul of its special-education services as a result of a 1996
settlement of a federal lawsuit.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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