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A victory for mainstreaming: Board of Education, Sacramento City Unified School District vs. Rachel Holland.

On March 2, 1992, Judge David E Levi, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, affirmed a previous ruling by a California Special Education hearing officer that Rachel Holland, "a nine-year-old girl who is moderately mentally retarded," be placed in a regular classroom with support services. The Board of Education of the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) which had appealed the hearing officer's decision has also appealed the ruling by Judge Levi. The decision is pending,

Because Judge Levi's decision clearly and carefully discusses the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (originally called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act), we are presenting key excerpts to help readers respond to community concerns nationwide.

Judge Levi strongly disagreed with the four basic arguments the SCUSD made in denying Rachel Holland a place in the regular classroom.

1. The SCUSD argued that "if the child's disabilities are so severe that he or she will receive little or no academic benefit from placement in a regular education class, then mainstreaming may not be appropriate."

The Judge stated that the IDEA requires a child to be educated in a regular classroom if the child can receive a satisfactory education there, even if it is not the best academic setting for that child. Further, the school district must demonstrate that it has considered "whether supplemental aids and services would permit satisfactory education in the regular classroom." Only if the child cannot receive a satisfactory education in a regular classroom, even if appropriate support services are offered, should the child be placed in a special education class.

2. The SCUSD did not address "the significant nonacademic benefits a handicapped child may receive from exposure to non-handicapped peers."

This reflects the fundamental purpose of the IDEA's mainstreaming requirement. "The nonacademic benefits of mainstreaming a child are closely related to the academic benefits .... For example, a child may be better able to learn academic subjects because of improved selfesteem and increased motivation due to placement in regular education."

3. The SCUSD argued that if children in a regular classroom are disadvantaged by the presence of the handicapped child, mainstreaming is not appropriate.

Judge Levi responded that "when evaluating the burden that would be created by placing a handicapped child in a regular education class, the school district must consider all reasonable means to minimize the demands on the teacher .... A handicapped child who merely requires more teacher attention than most other children is not likely to be so disruptive as to significantly impair the education of other children. In weighing this factor, the school district must keep in mind its obligation to consider supplemental aids and services that could accommodate a handicapped child's need for additional attention."

4. The SCUSD stated that a "school district must balance the needs of each handicapped child against the needs of other children in the district. If the cost of educating a handicapped child in a regular classroom is so great that it would significantly impact upon the education of other children in the district, then education in a regular classroom is not appropriate."

Judge Levi responded that only where the cost of placing a handicapped child in regular education will significantly affect other children in the district will this factor weigh against placement in a regular classroom.

"In addition to the four factors discussed above, the school District urged the court to consider the extent of curriculum modification as a distinct factor."

The Court responded that "modification of the curriculum for a handicapped child, even dramatic modification, has no significance in and of itself. The IDEA,. in its provision for the IEP process, contemplates that the academic curriculum may be modified to accommodate the individual needs of handicapped children."

Editors' Note: This case is now being appealed in the 9th U.S. Circuit .Court of Appeals. It most clearly defines the challenges parents around the country face when "mainstreaming" their child. The final decision will help clarify the uncertainty and unevenness in the application of the law throughout the country. We will present updates in future issues.

We would like to thank the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) staff who participated in the case and kindly made their material available to us. For more information or a complete copy of the court ruling, contact Diane Lipton, Staff Attorney, DREDF, 2212 Sixth Street, Berkeley, Calif. 94710, (800)466-4232 (Voice/TDD) or (51 O) 644-2555.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes editor's note
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Words:742
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