The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story (When Discipline Starts a Fight) on the perils of mainstreaming, and what it can do to discipline in the classroom.
As public schools come under pressure to teach more children with behavioral disabilities, the use of restraint and seclusion has become a contentious issue. Faced with laws that make it more difficult to expel or suspend misbehaving special-education students, educators say they need to use harsh tactics sometimes to protect other children and teachers.
The danger comes when schools turn methods designed for extraordinary circumstances into routine disciplinary tools. The result can be a vicious cycle of punishment and rebellion, hurting the very children who were supposed to benefit from attending a mainstream school.
Decades ago, schools often denied enrollment to students with serious behavioral disorders or assigned them to segregated facilities. Conflicts over disciplinary methods often played out far from public view. Then came the 1975 federal law now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It requires schools to provide disabled students with individualized education plans and put them in the least-restrictive appropriate setting — which often means a regular public school. The idea is that children with disabilities will mature and learn more if they have contact with peers in regular schools.
In 2005, 472,000 children were receiving special-education services for emotional disturbances. Of them, 35% were going to school in “fully inclusive” settings — spending 80% or more of their day in regular classrooms — up from 17% in 1990.
The story also talks about parents who are increasingly dissatisfied with the options to them by their children’s schools.