Having a disability should not mean segregating a child from the rest of the students in his or her school. In fact, under the Individuals with Disability Education Act, children with special needs should have the opportunity to receive an education with their peers within the California education system. When this does not happen, it could violate the act’s requirement that a student’s unique needs ought to be met in the “least restrictive environment” possible.
While it is true that your special needs child will benefit from an individualized education program that accommodates his or her needs, it does not mean that your child should not spend as much time as possible being education with nondisabled children. When the act talks about the least restrictive environment, this is what it means.
The odds are that your child should not be shut away in a special education classroom all day. The only time this should happen is when a disability is so severe that being in a general education classroom would do more harm than good. Otherwise, those involved in creating your child’s individualized education program should work toward keeping your child in the general education setting as much as possible. It is not only about academics, but is also about socialization and appropriate behavior models. Of course, the impact on the teachers and students who do not have disabilities is a consideration, but it should not be the central one.
If you believe a California school district is denying your child the right to an education in the least restrictive environment, then you have the right to speak up. You are an integral part of your child’s education, and you do not have to let the school district takes the reigns and keep your child away from the general education classroom and nondisabled peers. If you find yourself in a position where you must fight your child’s rights in this or another special education law matter, you would most likely benefit from working with a legal advocate experienced in this area of law.