N.Y. Board's Plan For Handicapped Draws Criticism

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The New York State Board of Regents has enacted changes in the state's special-education regulations that would allow school districts to place children with different disabilities in the same classroom.

But strong opposition from teacher organizations, parent groups, and big-city school systems in the state forced the Regents to make the policy change optional.

For one year beginning July 1, school districts will be allowed to continue to use the present system of placing special-education students only in classes with other students who have the same disability. This method of grouping students--placing blind students only with other blind students or placing mentally retarded children only with others who are mentally retarded, for example--has traditionally been the policy of most states.

Added Flexibility

Under the regents' proposal, school districts would have the added flexibility to group children with various disabilities if certain "needs"--educational/academic, physical, and social/emotional--of the children are better met by doing so.

The regents agreed to set a new policy on this and other controversial special-education issues--in particular, class sizes and the acceptable range in age of children in a class--by July 1, 1983.

According to Lawrence C. Gloeckler of the state's special-education office, advocates of the new placement policy--primarily school districts--asserted that it offers children a better chance of being placed in a class that is best suited to their educational needs.

Many teachers and parents, said Mr. Gloeckler, argued that the new policy will allow school districts to arbitrarily place children in classes with students who have different types of disabilities.

Mr. Gloeckler said his office proposed the changes which give school districts more flexiblity because the placement of children solely on the basis of their handicap "dilutes the validity of the individual education plan," (a detailed plan, mandated by state and federal law, outlining the educational needs of each special-education student).

Other Changes Endorsed

The regents also endorsed other changes in the state's special-education regulations that are not optional and will go into effect on July 1.

Among them:

More detailed individual education plans for each disabled student in order to improve the instruction of special-education students.

The Reagan Administration is planning to reduce the complexity required under federal law in such plans. New York's existing requirements for individual plans are comparable to the current federal requirements, according to Mr. Gloeckler.

Extension of due-process rights to disabled children under the control of other states agencies.

A requirement that school boards establish written policies on such issues as the accessibility to special-education students of other school activities and training requirements for special-education staff members.

Vol. 01, Issue 28

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