There is also disagreement among parents of children who have disabilities about inclusion. Not all parents of students with special education needs are supportive of full or even limited inclusion of their disabled children with the general student population. Many parents have fought against school policies that would have removed their disabled child from the self-contained classroom or other more restrictive environment and placed the child in the regular classroom.
Even the social aspect of inclusion, which is often emphasized over any supposed academic benefits, has been called into question by many parents. These concerns are not unjustified. Wiener and Tardif (2004) found that special education students who were in a fully inclusive environment tended to have fewer friends and felt an overall lower degree of social acceptance.
Children with special education needs who were enrolled in full inclusion programs were also more likely to report feelings of loneliness and depression than their non-disabled classmates (Wiener & Tardiff, 2004). Other research on special education students who were enrolled in full-inclusion programs indicates that inclusion erodes the self-esteem and self-confidence of these students, many of whom already suffer from problems with self-esteem.
One study found that special education students who were enrolled in an inclusive classroom had less confidence and believed that they were less intellectually capable than students who attended classes with other disabled students, a finding which is consistent with social comparison theory, which would predict that students would compare themselves to other students in their environment (Bear, Mink, & Manning, 2002). Although socialization has been promoted as one of the primary rationales for full inclusion, Bear, et al.
(2002) concluded that there was little social justification for placing students with severe disabilities in an inclusive classroom. These concerns and others have caused some school districts to reconsider their inclusion policies. The inclusion movement reached its peak during the mid-1990s; however, by the end of the decade, 30 states and the District of Columbia had quietly reversed their stance on inclusion and were placing special education students in more restrictive environments than they were when the decade began (McLeskey, Hoppey, Williamson, & Rentz, 2004, p. 113).
IDEA requires schools to provide FAPE; it does not, however, require schools to provide optimal programs for students who have disabilities (Board of Education v. Rowley, 1982). In Rowley, the Supreme Court ruled that school districts must provide special education students with "a basic floor of opportunity for educational programs that provide meaningful benefits" for the student (Rowley, 1982). In other words, schools are required to provide their special education students with a level of service that is consistent with the level of service that is provided for non-handicapped students.
In Rowley, the Supreme Court specifically noted that the student's failure to succeed was not necessarily a reflection of the school's failure to provide appropriate services or to live up to its obligations under FAPE. In the opinion issued by the Court, it was also noted that the school had erred by being too willing to please the parent instead of advocating for what was in the best educational interests of the child. Rowley has important implications for special education teachers and school administrators.
IDEA empowers parents and students in its provisions for due process, communications with parents, and in parent and student participation in IEP teams. This empowerment places the parent in control of their child's educational destiny. Unfortunately, and despite their best intentions, parents may not always be in the best position to objective evaluate their child's abilities or needs or how those needs should be addressed. Consequently, educators often find themselves in adversarial relationships with the very parents and students that they are trying to assist.
Then, when problems develop and the outcomes are do not meet what was expected, the school is still held responsible. Rowley also recognizes that there are reasonable limits to what a school can be expected to provide for a specific student. Discussion As outlined above, the history of special education shows a progression from the absolute denial of educational services to students who were deemed to be "uneducable", to inclusion with continued segregation and isolation and eventually leading to the full inclusion of disabled students in the regular classroom environment.
Every step of this progress was the result of schools responding to court rulings or to special education law as described in IDEA. In some cases, the intervention of the courts was appropriate and ultimately beneficial to students and to schools. Diana, for example, made it less likely that students would not be inappropriately identified and labeled as having a handicap.
Diana also forced schools to recognize and address the linguistic and cultural diversity of their student populations, ultimately reducing the total enrollment in special education. Just as was the case in Brown, the court's intervention provided the stimulus that was needed so schools would do the right thing. In a similar fashion, the court rulings in PARC and Mills also motivated schools to address the needs of their special education students and their parents.