New Jersey has agreed to take several steps to raise the number of students with disabilities served in inclusive classroom settings, as part of a settlement of a lawsuit disability-rights advocates filed.
The agreement says the state will conduct a “needs assessment” for 75 districts with the lowest levels of inclusion; provide training and support to district personnel on inclusive practices; monitor those districts for compliance yearly; and allow oversight by a committee made up of disability advocates.
“The advocates are hopeful that this carefully crafted settlement will result in a vast improvement in New Jersey’s placement of children in the least-restrictive environment—an area where New Jersey, for decades, has trailed the rest of the nation,” said Ruth Lowenkron, a senior lawyer at the Education Law Center in Newark, one of four plaintiffs, said in a statement.
The settlement comes seven years after advocates filed a suit claiming the state was violating provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by denying students accommodations that would let them remain in a general classroom setting.
Michael Yaple, a spokesman for the New Jersey school board, said the state has made substantial movement in recent years to address inclusion. He noted that in the 2007-08 school year, about 10 percent of students with an individualized education program were attending school in separate facilities outside their home district. As of the 2012-13 school year, that figure had dropped to 7.8 percent.
A version of this article appeared in the February 26, 2014 edition of Education Week as N.J., Disability-Rights Advocates Settle Long-Term Lawsuit