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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Emotionally Disturbed Students At School

Is special education law creating dangerous conditions in American schools?

In an effort to ensure that schools are “inclusive,” IDEA requires that students with disabilities be educated in the “least restrictive environment” possible, and imposes a substantial paperwork burden on meting out discipline, requiring schools to determine whether their persistent misbehavior is rooted in their disability. When it comes to students who are hard-of-hearing or dyslexic, these requirements likely do a great deal of good. The problem is that this policy framework also applies to students whose disturbed, violent and even psychotic behavior has earned them a diagnosis of EBD. Schools are pressured to keep these students in traditional classrooms and then tie school staff’s hands when it comes to disciplining them. It’s a straightforward recipe for disruptive, if not outright dangerous, classrooms… Earlier this month, the Sun Sentinel published a striking expose, “Violent Kids Take Over Schools and Have the Law on Their Side,” documenting how powerless teachers feel in the face of extremely disturbing behavior. Students can attack their peers, assault their teachers, and even threaten to shoot up the school with little consequence. One teacher interviewed had to file a restraining order against a student to get him out of her classroom. “Students with violent tendencies have more rights than the students they endanger,” said one teacher. “Just ask [the Parkland shooter].”
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