AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions

INCLUSION OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

WHEREAS, there is no legal mandate or consistent definition for "inclusion," let it be known that for AFT policy we define inclusion as the placement of all students with disabilities in general education classrooms without regard to the nature or severity of the students' disabilities, their ability to behave and function appropriately in the classroom, or the educational benefits they can derive; and

WHEREAS, the mission of the public schools and of the AFT is to provide high standards, rich and challenging classroom experiences, and maximum achievement for ALL students, including students with disabilities as well as nondisabled students in general education classes; and

WHEREAS, public schools, particularly in urban areas, already are facing severe burdens because of the inequities in funding that plague them, overcrowding, the persistent social problems that surround them, and demands that they resolve the immense problems that students bring to school, severely reducing the schools' ability to provide a high-quality educational program for any student; and

WHEREAS, two years before the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L.94-142), Congress's continuing cynicism in funding the mandates of the law at under 10 percent of costs instead of the 40 percent promised has compromised schools' ability to provide appropriate services to students with disabilities and has placed even greater strains on education generally by requiring that higher and higher percentages of funding go to special education; and

WHEREAS, inclusion is being championed as the only placement for all students with disabilities by a movement of some advocacy groups"in the face of opposition from the parents of many students with disabilities and many respected advocates for the disabled" when there is no clear evidence that inclusion is appropriate or provides an educational benefit for all students with disabilities, and no clear evidence of its benefit for the other students; and

WHEREAS, there are deep concerns about the high percentage of minority children in some classes for students with disabilities, and inclusion is viewed by some advocates and parents as the only means of getting minority children out of those classes; and

WHEREAS, inclusion is being adopted by a large number of local school boards, state departments of education, legislators, and other policy makers all over the country as a means to save money by placing all students with disabilities in general education classrooms and curtailing special education supports and services; and

WHEREAS, inclusion is being adopted in contradiction to the mandates of P.L.94-142 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, the revision of P.L.94-142) that require students to be evaluated and, based on individual needs, assigned to the "least restrictive environment" (LRE) that exists within a continuum, or range, of placements; and

WHEREAS, even when students with disabilities are appropriately placed, general and special education staff who work with them are not receiving the training they need that they are entitled to by law; and

WHEREAS, the federal law and court decisions forbid school districts from removing disruptive students with disabilities from programs for more than 10 days a year, and require that, in the absence of school district and parental consent to an interim placement or a court order, such students "stay put" in the class while their placement is being evaluated and adjudicated; and

WHEREAS, the existing federal legislation limits the ability of teachers to challenge legally inappropriate placements of students with disabilities in general education classrooms; and

WHEREAS, insufficient medical personnel are employed by school districts to care for medically fragile children under existing circumstances, and inclusion would place these students in medical danger and increase the responsibilities of teachers and paraprofessionals; and

WHEREAS, inclusion threatens to overwhelm schools and systems that are already extremely vulnerable "particularly in areas with great poverty and social needs" by placing additional responsibilities on teachers, paraprofessionals and support professionals, thus threatening the ability of schools to meet the educational needs of all students; and

WHEREAS, students with disabilities have frequently been placed in programs that failed to serve their needs to meet high educational standards, fueling the desire of their parents to have their children in general education classrooms even when such placements are not appropriate:

RESOLVED, that the AFT continue to seek high national achievement standards for education, applicable to ALL students, disabled and nondisabled alike; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT oppose inclusion that is, any movement or program that has the goal of placing all students with disabilities in general education classrooms regardless of the nature or severity of their disabilities, their ability to behave or function appropriately in the classroom, or the educational benefits they and their general education peers can derive; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT denounce the appalling administrative practices that have accompanied the inclusion movement. These include, but are not limited to, placing too many students with disabilities in individual general classrooms; placing students with disabilities in general education classrooms without services, professional development or paraprofessional assistance; refusing to assist teachers who are having problems meeting the unique needs of students with disabilities; and changing IEPs en masse so that students with disabilities may be placed in general education classrooms without supports and services and irrespective of the appropriateness of the placement; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT seek alliances with organizations that support the continuum of alternative placements and the educational placement of students with disabilities within the least restrictive environment appropriate to the individual needs of the students; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT seek with its allies to reopen P.L.94-142 and IDEA, convincing Congress both to recognize in the law the high costs and complex problems of special education and to respond by providing:

  1. full funding for all of its mandates;
  2. a 5-year reauthorization of the laws for educating students with disabilities—just as every other education act requires—to realize the benefits of new hearings and discussions of problems that arise;
  3. the legal right for teachers to attend the IEP meetings of children they teach; the right to appeal inappropriate placements; and the right to be fully represented during due process hearings without reprisal, i.e., intimidation, coercion, or retaliation, for being a child advocate; and the right to be involved in the assessment of delivery of services, staff training, and availability of resources to ensure the effectiveness of the program as intended by Congress;
  4. the reauthorization and enforcement of the continuum of placements, which includes mainstreaming as an existing alternative strategy within the range of services for students with disabilities;
  5. that criteria for placement in general education require the proximate ability of students to function appropriately both academically and behaviorally when supplementary aids and services are provided by the district;
  6. support for districts in maintaining consistent discipline policies for ALL students who disrupt classrooms or engage in dangerous behavior;
  7. reauthorization of and insistence on comprehensive professional development;
  8. negation of court decisions concerning students with disabilities, which are detrimental to educational programs—such as the "stay-put" provision, limitations on the discipline of students with disabilities and decisions that favor inclusion;
  9. for limitations on the number of students with disabilities in self-contained and general classrooms;

RESOLVED, that the AFT seek with its allies to address the problem of the high percentages of minority students in special education; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT renew our long-standing commitment to meeting the needs of ALL students for high standards, rich and challenging classroom experiences, and maximum achievement, whatever their educational placements might be.


(1994)