Originally created 02/20/00

Sees abuse of special education laws



I applaud the Columbia County school administrators for having the courage to pursue the arrest of a special education student who attacked a student and a para-professional.

I would also like to give kudos to Dr. Craig Spinks for his comments in The Chronicle (Feb. 6).

I am not an educator, but I am the father of a special education student and I am very concerned with the direction that special education is heading. My concern is the abuse of two well-intentioned federal laws: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1975. IDEA states that handicapped students will be placed in the "least restrictive environment so that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are not disabled."

We normally think of special education children as those with special needs -- such as blindness, Down's syndrome, autism, or cerebral palsy.

The problem now facing educators are students with a loosely defined set of "behavioral difficulties." These receive civil rights protection and cannot be disciplined for their "difficulties." The attack on the student and para-professional is not an isolated incident. I have seen "behaviorally disabled students" openly defy authority and dare you to do something about it. ... These children know the law and do not hesitate to remind you that "you can't mess with me because I am in special education."

What is the problem? Is it the parent who refuses to accept that the child failed because he refuses to study and blames the "system" and demands that the child be placed in special education, completely ignoring parental responsibil-ities? Or is it the "system?"

Inclusion of special education students with regular education students can be a meaningful experience for both groups. But, only when appropriate -- and only when it does not cause the disruption in class for the majority of students. ...

Parents of both regular education and special education students must become cognizant of the burden and disruption caused by too many of those children classified as "behaviorally disabled."

We cannot allow these children to get out of control. We surely do not want a dastardly attack on one of our teachers, para-professionals or students as happened recently in Richmond County.

Stephen McMillan, Grovetown