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Report Says N.J. Schools Fail To Integrate Disabled

New Jersey public schools are increasingly keeping children with disabilities out of regular classrooms, according to a report by a state advocacy group.

The state's eight special-service school districts have led to increased segregation of students with disabilities and should be shut down, contends the report by the New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council.

In 1990-91, it notes, nearly 43 percent of the state's 185,948 students with disabilities were placed in separate, self-contained classrooms--well above the national average of 32 percent.

State officials agreed that more disabled students should be placed in regular classrooms, but said the report's statistics are outdated and do not reflect improvement since 1991.

Up, Not Out

Instead of banishing disruptive high school students to detention halls, education officials in New Jersey are sending them to college.

Three years ago, the state opened nontraditional high schools in seven districts. Most of them are located on college campuses.

This fall, New Jersey's department of education earmarked $3 million in federal funds to begin 14 more alternative schools. By the end of the school year, there will be one in each of the 21 districts in the state.

At-risk students receive extra support services, including one-on-one counseling, to help them deal with behavior problems, said Jennifer Seeland, a coordinator with the education department's division of student services.

Each student's program is tailored specifically to his or her needs. There is even an option to enroll in college courses.

"The students will tell you that the best part [of the alternative schools] is that somebody cares," Ms. Seeland said.

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