There is a resurgent and fervent debate in the United States among parents, teachers, administrators
and policy makers, as to whether children with disabilities should receive their daily academic
instruction in the same learning environment with general education students. This is not a new debate,
but what is giving it such renewed energy, life and vitality, is the fact that parents of children with
disabilities are now the chief opponents to having their children participate in mainstream learning

As you can imagine, this is a very sensitive topic and many people are entrenched on both sides. For
years teachers have argued that having students that are classified as ED or LD in a general education
classroom is categorically a bad idea. Their argument stems from a lack of training on the best ways to
provide services to students with these classifications, coupled with the sheer amount of time that will
be required to manage those students’ respective behaviors and ensure they are receiving a quality education.

As if that was not a difficult enough task, they still are responsible for teaching the other 20- 30 general education students that are in the same class. Parents of Learning Disabled and or Emotionally Disturbed children are now making the very valid case that their children are being underserved, are perpetual targets of bullying and harassment, and often have very few friends. No parent wants to think about their child being isolated and picked on at school regardless of how they are classified. There is a long overdue change in the air with regards to special education. What the impact of that change will be may not be made manifest for another 20-25 years, when we will invariably be having this conversation again.

By Shaka X Greene


Learning- Knowledge acquired by systematic study in any field of scholarly application. The act or
process of acquiring knowledge or skill. (Psychology) The modification of behavior through practice,
training, or experience.

Peers– A person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, and social status.
Mainstreaming-integration of children with special educational problems, as a physical handicap, into
conventional classes and school activities.
Inclusion-to place in an aggregate, class, category, or the like.

Least Restrictive Environment- LRE is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA). IDEA says that children who receive special education should learn in the least
restrictive environment. This means they should spend as much time as possible with peers
who do not receive special education.

IDEA says two things about LRE that are important to understand when working with the

IEP team:
1. Your child should be with kids in general education to the “maximum extent that is
2. Special classes, separate schools or removal from the general education class
should only happen when your child’s learning or attention issue—his “disability”
under IDEA—is so severe that supplementary aids and services can’t provide him
with an appropriate education.