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Least restrictive environment

Least Restrictive Environment
     Although the ideas and reasons for inclusive education are very noble and can
have a positive effect on many disabled students, mandating inclusion for all
disabled students denies some the opportunity to appropriately learn in the
least restrictive environment (LRE) as required by law. The fight for inclusive
education has made enormous gains from when the National Association of Retarded

Children was established in 1950 to 1990 when the public law called the

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), P.L. 94-142, was revised.

Educational systems have moved from not providing education at all for the
disabled to providing schools for the disabled separate from non-disabled
students. Recently "normal" schools have been practicing inclusion and
have free rein to determine exactly how. The problem facing policy makers today
is whether or not all disabled children should be inclusioned. If the policy
makers would just observe the disabled students being inclusioned and ignore all
the rhetoric being presented to them, they will find that not all disabled
children benefit from inclusion. On July 13,1996, Omer Zak compiled several
articles the deaf and professionals who work with the deaf had submitted to him
and presented them on the Internet under the title Deaf Persons and Experts

Speak Out Against Inclusion. One of the writings submitted was entitled
"Interpreter Isn't Enough!" written by Leah Hager Cohen. The author is
an interpreter for an eleventh grade deaf student that is being inclusioned in a
regular school. Cohen explains how the deaf student will sit quietly by herself
before class begins while the rest of the students are socializing and
interacting with each other. The piece goes on to explain how the deaf student
must look at the interpreter during class in order to receive the lesson being
presented by the teacher. When the student looks takes her eyes off the
interpreter to write in her notes the interpreter must stop signing. When the
student looks back to the interpreter she begins signing again. The more often
the student stops to write in her notes the farther behind the teacher the
interpreter gets. As the interpreter falls behind she must try to catch up
causing a loss of information. If the teacher adds a visual aid such as a map or
a chart, the student must concentrate on three things causing her to fall even
farther behind. The deaf student rarely has the opportunity to be the one to
answer a question asked by the teacher due to the delay caused by using an
interpreter. Before the interpreter even gets the question signed another
student has answered it. Cohen also explains that while a teacher will ask her
how the student is doing many teachers will decline an invitation to ask the
student herself via the interpreter. That declination has a tendency to alienate
the deaf student even more. Joe Murray also contributed an article to Zak.

Murray is a deaf person who was fully "inclusioned" throughout his
academic career up and including college. Murray was by most standards a very
successful student. He participated in sports and other extra curricular
activities along with going to Europe as an exchange student. Murray explains
how in the mist of all his success he felt he was not living up to his potential
and could not do so out side the deaf community. Murray had to make a
concentrated effort at everything he did where as if he was in an environment
with his deaf peers the flow of information and activity would have happened
more naturally. One of the biggest argument supporters of full inclusion try to
present is the fact that disabled students and non-disabled students will have
the opportunity to socially interact with each other. It is hoped that this
interaction will break down the prejudices and misconceptions people have about
the disabled. In the case of a deaf student the opposite holds true. In a school
for the deaf the students can communicate and interact freely without any
restrictions. When a deaf child is placed in a school for the hearing that child
is isolated from the rest of her classmates. In order for successful learning to
take place a student must feel valued and comfortable in the classroom (Ormrod).

If a deaf child is isolated from her classmates due to the lack of communication
she will never gain the feeling of being valued or comfortable. The information
processing abilities of students must be taken into consideration when placing
them in any academic situation. Students need time to be able to think about and
draw conclusions on what is being taught (Ormrod). If a deaf student and her
interpreter are having problems keeping up with the classroom instruction the
deaf student will miss the opportunities given by the teacher to properly think
about and process the information and grasp the true concepts of the lesson. By
not having the opportunity to perform the information processing stage of
classroom instruction the deaf students rights to learn in the least restrictive
environment as stated in P.L. 94-142, are clearly being violated. If the teacher
does slow the pace of instruction down in order to allow the deaf student to
keep up, others in the class will become bored and loose interest which
infringes on their right to learn in the least restrictive environment. As
mentioned above, the rights of the non-disabled student can be violated by
having students with certain disabilities in a normal classroom session. For
example, a severely autistic child can be very difficult to control and can
quickly turn a classroom into a chaotic mess (Mejia). Autistic children need to
have a structured environment with very little disturbances. When a disturbance
does occur such as an announcement over the P.A. system or a fire drill the
autistic child will most often experience a form of a panic attack and causing
them to become very disruptive and difficult to manage. As a result, valuable
lesson time is wasted on calming the autistic child down. This is not only
disturbing to the other students in the classroom but can be dangerous to them
as well. An autistic child will often get violent during an tantrum and may
throw something or do something that will injure other students. If a tantrum
occurs during a fire alarm the autistic child could prevent the rest of the
class from safely exiting the building. The infringement on regular students
rights does not stop with a possible disturbance in the classroom. In February
of 1995 a behavior disordered (BD) student who was being fully inclusioned was
convicted of the rape and murder of one of his classmates (Schlafly). The BD
student used to be part of a supervised program in the most controlled
environment for BD students. As a result of the new policy at McCluer North High

School about full inclusion, the BD student was transferred into a regular
classroom setting. Shortly after his transfer he raped and murdered a 15
year-old freshman named Christine Smetzer. Are the average American students
being overlooked in this whole process of inclusion? One quick look at the
change in public school budgets will answer that question. In 1967 at least 80%
of public school budgets where devoted to "regular education" while in

1996 that percentage rate dropped to 58.6% (Ratnesar). The 22% decrease is a
result of absorbing the cost for special education and inclusionThe extra
attention given to a severely disabled child that is inclusioned into a regular
classroom is drawing away the resources and efforts of the teachers that would
normally be directed to the average student. What a waste of precious resources
when a child's disability is so severe that they can not truly benefit from
inclusion. Supporters of full inclusion claim that the biggest obstacle they
face is the attitudes of those involved (Mejia). There are schools that are very
successful at applying inclusion practices. What enabled the success of these
schools was the attitudes of the staff. Likewise, many of the failures of
inclusion can be attributed to poor attitudes. Tim McConnell has been quoted for
saying "the key to successful inclusion is deciding to make inclusion
successful." When administrators change their negative attitudes toward
inclusion and begin to follow the proper procedures for implementing inclusion
it will be successful. By law an individualized education program (IEP) must be
developed for each student that has been identified as having a disability. If a
specialist is required by the IEP than one must be provided for the student. Had
this policy been properly implemented in the past maybe students such as Joe

Murray would have felt as if he was achieving his full potential. If a proper
staff was assigned to Michael Taylor would that have been enough to prevent the
rape and murder of Christine Smetzer? There is no definite answer to the above
question but supporters of full inclusion would have you believe that
"yes" these things could have been prevented if inclusion was
implemented properly. When proper implementation of inclusion occurs more
positive examples will come forth. The more positive examples that are presented
the more apt people are to take a positive attitude toward full inclusion
enabling for more and more successful inclusion programs. Those who support
inclusion for the deaf claim "the average sixteen year old-deaf student can
only read at the level of a hearing eight year-old" (The Disabled). If a
deaf student can be placed in a regular classroom setting early in his education
and given the proper support there should be no reason why he could not read and
write at the same level of his hearing peers. Deaf children growing up in
segregated schools are most often taught American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is an
entirely different language than English just as Spanish or French is. The
problem is that if the deaf person lives in America everything from instructions
to the closed captions on TV are written in English and not in ASL. Teaching the
deaf to read and write proper English will help them to function in the
community more freely. The same holds true with autistic children as well. Teach
them young enough how to function in a normal classroom setting and they will
behave accordingly. According to the Authors of Listening To Their Voices
inclusive practices benefit the average student as well. The book provides a
reliable chart of how much is learned in different situations. The chart states
that people learn: 10% of what they read 20% of what they hear 30% of what they
see 50% of what they see & hear 70% of what they discuss w/others 80%of what
they experience 95% of what they teach others Non disabled students who have
disabled students participating in their classes have the opportunity to help
the disabled student learn. As a result the non disabled student has a higher
chance of retaining what is being taught. A teacher can still teach a lesson if
the learning goals of the students in the class vary. It is the variance that
allows students to help other students creating an atmosphere for more positive
learning. The question still remains as to whether or not inclusion should be
practiced as full inclusion. The answer is quite simple really, follow the law!

Learning must take place in the least restrictive environment. In order to
adhere to that section of the law both segregated schools and non-segregated
schools must be made available to the disabled. Then the due process of the law
must be followed. Each individual that is suspected to have a disability must be
evaluated by fair and impartial hearing conducted by a multidisciplinary team.

These teams consist of the parents, the regular classroom teacher, one or more
specialist and the school principal. It is at this time that parents can
determine if they feel their child would benefit from regular classroom
instruction or segregated classroom instruction. Where the law gets fuzzy is if
inclusion should be mandated or not. Logic should dictate in this situation and
recognize that the parents are ultimately responsible for the education their
child receives. Therefore the parents should have the right to research the
school their child would be attending and make a determination as to whether or
not that school can meet their child’s needs. If the parents feel that their
child would be better served in a segregated school where the instruction is
geared solely toward that child’s disability, then that school should be
available to that child and her /his parents. Works Cited Zak, Omer. "Deaf

Persons and Experts Speak Out Against Inclusion." 13 Jul. 1996. Internet
posting. 3 Oct. 1998. Available WWW: htp://www.weiz

Cohen, Leah Hager. "Interpreter Isn’t Enough!." The New York Times. 22

Feb. 1994. "Deaf Persons and Experts Speak Out Against Inclusion." 13 Jul.

1996. Internet posting. 3 Oct. 1998. Available WWW: htp://www.weiz

Murray, Joe. "Mainstreaming Leads to Isolation - a Testimonial. 27 Feb. 1995

"Deaf Persons and Experts Speak Out Against Inclusion." 13 Jul. 1996.

Internet posting. 3 Oct. 1998. Available WWW: htp://www.weiz

Ormrod, Jeanne Ellis. Educational Psychology : Developing Learners. New Jersey:

Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1995. Mejia, Tammy. Personal interview. 6 Oct. 1998.

Schlafly, Phyllis. "Full Inclusion Student is Convicted of Murder."

Education Reporter. May 1998 Ratnesar, Romesh. "Lost in the Middle." Time 14

Sep. 1998: 60 - 64. The Disabled. Greenhaven Press, 1997 Grosel, Laura, et al.

"Listen to Their Voices." Thes. Ashland College, 1997.


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