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Legal Developments Highlight Importance of Inclusion

Last year saw a number of important legal developments highlighting the importance of inclusion and evidence based curricula.

In August 2018, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, with jurisdiction over school districts in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Michigan, ruled in the important IDEA case L.H. v. Hamilton County Department of Education, upholding the importance of inclusion under federal law.

In 2013, L.H. was attending Normal Park Elementary School in Hamilton County, Tennessee. He was in a general education classroom which contained students both with and without disabilities. Then the County determined that L.H. would be better off in a comprehensive development classroom (“CDC”) – one where he would be segregated from non-disabled students for much of the day. L.H.’s parents objected citing the IDEA’s requirement that every student has the right to a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

L.H.’s parents removed him from the setting and placed L.H. in a private Montessori school.  The Court held that the CDC was not an appropriate setting and ordered the County to reimburse L.H.’s parents for the cost of the private placement.  In reaching its decision the Court noted that the law prefers inclusion and that a student may only be segregated if (1) the student would not benefit from a general education environment; (2) the benefits of the general education setting would be far outweighed by the benefits of the special education setting; or (3) the student would be a disruptive force in a general education classroom.

More recently, in November 2018, the State of Ohio entered into a settlement resolving a class action lawsuit alleging that Ohio’s 11 largest districts failed to adequately serve students with disabilities.  Under the settlement, the districts have committed to improve literacy instruction, provide enhanced support to teachers serving students with disabilities, adopt evidence-based behavior support strategies, improve inclusion opportunities, and provide improved vocational services at the high-school level.  This settlement will be implemented over the next five years.

Schools and districts must recognize the importance of inclusion, supported by evidence-based strategies, in meeting their legal obligations. Experience tells us that the benefits of inclusion are significant and that with proper training behavior strategies can minimize disruptive behavior and make an inclusive setting the preferred environments for students with and without disabilities. Contact us at consulting@ccde.org to develop a training or consulting program that fits your needs.