Some commentators and public officials have suggested that the schoolhouse door to special education services has opened too widely and too indiscriminately... under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). In her Article responding to calls to shrink the eligibility definition, Professor Wendy Hensel alludes to The Short Bus that students with disabilities often ride. Meanwhile, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) — the most significant federal education policy reform in place for general education students — dictates a level of academic progress and instructional interventions to assist all pupils — those with disabilities along with other marginalized students.
In this Essay, I call for an end to the line drawing and hoop jumping. Like Professor Hensel, I believe the public policy focus should not be on the breadth or narrowness of the definition of disability. I also share her belief that educators and policymakers must continue to grapple with the extent of services, if for no other reason than the spiraling cost. However, in moving toward an educational system that is more inclusive in the implementation of IDEA's least restrictive environment principle — and the success-for-all mandate of NCLB — we should end the divide between disabled students and their nondisabled peers who also require intensive academic or other educational supports. We must evaluate the remedial needs of a broader group of students — those situated outside the traditional and legal disability circle — and craft individualized programs for them as well.
Moreover, I argue that we should strengthen another important factor that is key to the success of students with disabilities: adequate preparation of teachers and other professional staff. Finally, the right to monitor children's programs and progress that is now available to parents of disabled youth should be extended to parents of other students in need.
4 Stan. J. C.R. & C.L. 373 (2008).