Unintended Lessons: What Typically Developing Students Learn from the Inclusion and Exclusion of Students Who Receive Special Education Services

  • Carol Hines


One of the hallmarks of the public education system in the United States is its diversity. While in other countries, students are segregated in academic and vocational tracks, in the US students commonly attend the schools in their neighborhood with other students from the neighborhood. In 1954, the Supreme Court struck down the idea of separate but equal in Brown v. The Board of Education and mandated that schools be desegregated. In 1975, Public Law 92-142 mandated the free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities. Subsequent legislation (IDEA-1997, IDEA-2004) has specified that students with disabilities are to be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE). LRE means that, to the maximum extent appropriate, school districts must educate students with disabilities in the regular classroom with appropriate aids and supports, along with their nondisabled peers in the school they would attend if they were not disabled. The first placement that must be considered is the general education classroom alongside typically developing peers. It is only if this placement is deemed to be ineffective that segregation is to be considered.