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All Students Entitled to Lessons in Good Learning Environment

July 10, 1994

* The recent editorial on special education ("Disruptive Children Need Education Too," June 26) seeks to advocate good things but misses the mark in many places.

The statement "children with disabilities are entitled to be educated in regular classrooms . . . as much as possible" is painfully misleading. The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) does not dictate mainstreaming or full inclusion in those terms. Rather, it states that "to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities . . . are educated with children who are not disabled." There are many cases where it would be possible to provide a general education classroom for a disabled child, but it would not be appropriate as the child would not benefit from that placement.

The balance between possible and appropriate is ideally struck by constructive dialogue between the school district and parents.

When the experts cannot come to terms, The Times suggests that deference be given to the school. This attitude of "the government knows what's best" has caused laws such as IDEA to be necessary. The enumeration of the rights and protections of the child and the parents has not come about through the actions of a beneficent dictator. Instead, a history of acting in a heavy-handed manner has forced Congress to place limits on the actions of schools and to make them accountable to the parents. Heaven forbid that this should be reversed.

MARK PEREW

Santa Ana

* What other population of underrepresented students would we dare to require to wait for a tax initiative to be fully included? This is a response to the article by Alexander Britton, "Resources a Problem in Teaching Disabled (June 30)."

It is our firm belief that the democratic system requires equal educational opportunity be afforded to all students (including those with disabilities) now and not later. It is our country's expectation that our education system will provide students with the ability to develop as happy, unprejudiced, contributing members of our society. The primary prerequisite to becoming a contributing, unprejudiced member of society is to experience and value diversity. Therefore, it is critical that all students have the right to receive a quality, inclusive education, regardless of their ability level.

No other minority school population exists in our culture today that is required to wait for the legislature to appropriate special funds to integrate with their peers.

We fully agree with Dr. Britton that general education teachers must be better prepared to receive and educate students with diverse ability and that class sizes must shrink for all students. However, if we wait for more funding to fully include students with disabilities, we'll wait forever.

JAN WEINER

Cal State Fullerton and

STEVE ZIVOLICH

Integrated Resources Institute, Irvine

* Regarding the Jimmy Peters case, I find it interesting that repeated articles have focused on Jimmy Peters and his disabilities and behaviors, rather than on the school's failure to teach him. Little has been written on what the district has done to try and help this child. Inclusion is only as good as the process by which it is implemented. The concept is a good one. The implementation of the concept can be well-done or poorly carried out, the latter of which is what seems to have happened in this case.

The process of inclusion does not occur overnight. It should include disability awareness training for teachers, students, and parents; ongoing training for the regular education teacher in specific teaching strategies; ongoing behavior management training for the regular education teacher and aides, and ongoing specialized consultation services whenever needed. We do not know if any or all of this has occurred in this case, because the focus of the attention has been on Jimmy and his disabilities.

It is time to stop blaming inclusion failures on the child and the severity of the disability. Inclusion fails (1) because it is not implemented with the commitment to the value of inclusion as an inherent right to integrated education for all children, and (2) because of the failure to use effective strategies for teaching and managing the behavior of children with disabilities.

BARBARA E. BROMLEY

Tustin

Barbara E. Bromley is an assistant professor of special education at Cal Poly Pomona.

* Perhaps you ought to visit classrooms around the county, or state, before you write an article so sympathetic to Jimmy Peters. First of all, his father is not testing special education student rights to mainstream classes. There are many such mainstreamed and fully included students in all school districts, at all levels of education. The Circle View school has extended itself in helping mainstream education work for this child. Who do you suppose, after all, paid for Jimmy to have his own full-time aide?

In thinking of a learning environment best for this child, it appears clear that, despite many interventions attempted by the school, Jimmy was unable to learn successfully in a regular classroom. Although Jimmy's father doesn't seemed concerned about the educational rights of other students, it doesn't appear that very much successful learning was able to take place given the amount of instructional time spent doing behavioral interventions for Jimmy.

FRAN GALE

Mission Viejo

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