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Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Rulings Favoring 'Full Inclusion'

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Washington

The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to disturb two lower-court decisions favoring "full inclusion'' in a regular classroom for a California student with a mental disability.

The High Court on June 13 rejected without comment the appeal in Sacramento City Unified School District v. Holland (Case No. 93-1804).

The case involves Rachel Holland, an 11-year-old moderately retarded girl whose parents sought to place her full time in her neighborhood school in Sacramento. The case has attracted nationwide attention in special-education circles.

District officials argued that Rachel should be placed for only half the day in a regular classroom, and half the day in a special-education class. They said that Rachel had not interacted with other students while in kindergarten, and that tests indicated she would progress academically only in special education.

Rachel's parents challenged the district before a hearing officer, who concluded that the district's half-day mainstreaming proposal did not comply with federal special-education regulations. The district then took the matter to federal district court, where a judge also sided with the Hollands.

During an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Clinton Administration filed a brief in favor of a goal of full inclusion for students with disabilities. (See Education Week, Sept. 15, 1993.)

Four-Part Test

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court affirmed the district judge earlier this year.

The court adopted a four-part test for determining compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's requirement that disabled children be placed in the least-restrictive school environment.

The four factors to be considered, the court said, are: a student's educational benefits from placement in a regular classroom; the non-academic benefits of such inclusion; the student's effect on the teacher and other students in the classroom; and the cost of the placement.

Both the district court and Ninth Circuit Court found that Rachel would receive academic and non-academic benefits from full inclusion, would not have a detrimental effect on the class, and would not involve significant extra costs.

In its appeal to the Supreme Court, the district said the Ninth Circuit Court's test conflicts with the legal standards adopted by two other federal circuit courts.

"The time has come for this Court to provide a definitive standard for the federal mainstreaming rights of disabled children,'' the district urged.

As the case went on, the Hollands pulled Rachel from the public schools. They enrolled her in a private school, where she has been placed full time in a regular classroom along with an aide. During the trial phase of the case, one of her private school teachers testified that she has progressed strongly in the regular classroom.

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