Why Are We Still Segregating Students?


If IDEA's legal standards were applied with fidelity, no student would be excluded from general education on a long-term basis. Our current understanding of human development and educational best practices demonstrate that sustained segregated education is never “appropriate” and cannot ever constitute the “least restrictive environment.” —Pat Radel

Read on to learn more about how inclusive education is the law and get answers to common legal questions schools and families have about inclusion!

What does IDEA say about inclusion? The Individuals with Disabilities Act, or IDEA, the federal special education law, ensures “to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities … are educated with children who are not disabled” and “special classes, separate schooling, or other removal…occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily” (IDEA Section 1412 (a) (5), 2004). This means that IDEA presumes EVERY student with a disability —   from students with limited support needs to students with significant cognitive, communicative, or behavioral needs— should be included in general education and can only be moved to a segregated setting if their support needs cannot be met through the use of supplementary aids and services. 

We CAN meet the needs of every student in general education. Decades of educational research and practice have identified effective structures, pedagogy, and strategies to include students with disabilities in general education AND evidenced that these best practices lead to greater academic, social, emotional, behavioral and post-secondary outcomes for students with disabilities. This means our schools are well-equipped to provide every student with meaningful access to general education classroom while also providing rich, individualized special education services and supports. Educators can collaborate in new ways, teach in new ways, and support all students inclusively! There is no reason a student should need to be removed in a long-term way from the general education setting. We mention “long-term” because there are sometimes a limited number of students who experience significant mental health or physical health needs that require temporary hospital or home education to support them. No matter the student need, there should always be a clear and urgent transition plan to return to the general education setting. 

The Legal Preference for Inclusion. If a school district does recommend a segregated placement— even with all of the amazing tools and resources at their fingertips to effectively include a student— it is then up to the district to prove that they have tried to support the student in general education with supplementary aids, supports and services. And when families have disagreed with segregated placements, U.S. Federal courts have repeatedly established that inclusive settings are preferable over segregated placements and special education services can and should be brought to the student.

What about IDEA's Continuum of Placements for services? We sometimes hear that separate placements and programs need to exist because of the continuum of placement for services, which is part of the Least Resistive Environment (LRE) principle of IDEA.  But the principle of LRE is largely misunderstood —  it does not reference a setting, and is more about the services and supports for the student, and where and how those can be best provided. As we mentioned above, the legal preference is for inclusive settings, so as long as the school is providing students with disabilities an appropriate education in general education using supplemental aids, supports and services… the school is meeting the requirements of IDEA and does not need a segregated “life skills” program or “resource” class. 

Links shared in the Facebook live broadcast:

  • https://www.inclusiveschooling.com/sli22/ SLI schedule so you can see when Pat is presenting or Shelley Moore and other amazing folx
  • https://inclusiveschool.s3.amazonaws.com/100+tips+to+adapt+anything.pdf
  • https://www.inclusiveschooling.com/rock-the-range
  • https://www.getnicklivingston.com/post/two-minute-tip-for-a-better-iep-one-big-special-ed-myth-you-need-to-know
  • https://www.getnicklivingston.com/post/is-inclusion-optional
  • https://prekteachandplay.com/defensible-ieps
  • https://tempis.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/SLI+2022+admin+Letter.pdf


Print Examples of Supplemental Aids, Supports, and Services by downloading our handout below.


 View Recording from Live Broadcast

Need more PD Like this in your school?


Join us for our 2022 Summer Leadership Institute. Pat Radel is one of our amazing presenters. Check out the August 8-10 schedule here.


WHO SHOULD ATTEND? All school leaders and educators

WHAT IS IT? A virtual three-day mind-blowing inclusive experience

WHEN IS IT ? August 8, 9, and 10 – and it’s all recorded!

WHY? Inclusion is everyone’s right and NOW is the right time!