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Special Education

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Special education has come a long way since the concept came about in the 1700s. In that era people with disabilities were considered to be hopeless, an embarrassment to their families and were therefore hidden or abandoned. Today, in America, those who have special needs are increasingly gaining acceptance in society and their rights as individuals are being acknowledged, particularly in education. With the passing of important laws such as the Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, special education of students with disabilities has become a basic civil right. According to the federal government, all children, including those with disabilities, have a right to a free appropriate public education, also known as FAPE. While the government has the right to enforce these civil rights, it is up to each individual state to develop their own special education programs and procedures. Because each state has different demographics, there are various ways each approaches special education.

To understand the special education systems that each state constructs, it helps to focus on one state, and analyze it in it's entirety. It is beneficial to examine a state like New Jersey because this state provides several special education program options. The laws and procedures that are followed in New Jersey can be found in Title 6A: Chapter 14 of the New Jersey Administrative Code. The purpose of Chapter 14 is to guarantee that a free, appropriate public education is available to all students with disabilities as defined in the chapter itself. It ensures that the placement of each student and the various services provided are based on the child's individual needs and are carried out in the least restricted environment, LRE, possible. New Jersey law makes sure that the rights of students with disabilities and their parents are protected, and that the effectiveness of the education of these students is properly evaluated.

New Jersey is broken up into districts, each with it's own board of education. These districts are responsible for providing education programs and related services for students with disabilities as required by the individual education program, IEP. A full range of alternative placements must be made available in order to meet the individual needs of all disabled students, ages 3 through 21. There are a total of 14 different program options available to students with disabilities. Students with minor disabilities may attend regular class with supplementary aids and services. These aids and services that are used within the classroom include modifications to the curriculum or instruction, specialized instructional strategies that coincide with each individual student's learning style, additional instruction by a paraprofessional, assistive technology devices and services, teacher's aides and related services. The remainder of the programs are utilized outside of the general education classroom and include resource programs, a special class program in the students local school district, a special education program in another local school district and a special education program in a vocational and technical school. Some of the special education programs are offered in a county special services school district, an educational services commission or a jointure commission.

There are some cases where students with special needs require an education outside of the public school system. This falls under another special education program that is offered under Chapter 14 that allows a student to attend a New Jersey approved private school for the disabled or an out of state school for the disabled in the continental United States which must be approved by the state where the school is located. A child with disabilities can opt to attend a special education program that is operated by the department of New Jersey State government, a community rehabilitation program, programs in hospitals, convalescent centers or any other medical institutions. Any form of individual instruction at home or in other facilities must be appropriate and possess the prior written approval of the Department of Education through it's county office. If a student must attend a non-public school which is not specifically approved for the education of students with disabilities, that person, according to N.J.A.C.6A:14-6.5, must receive consent from the Commissioner of Education by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or by order of an administrative law judge as a result of a due process hearing. According to Chapter 14, a Commissioners consent is based upon the certification by the district board of education that certain requirements have been met. It is required that the non-public school is accredited, has a suitable special education program, is the most appropriate placement for the student and meets the requirements of the student's IEP. The student must receive a program that meets the requirements of a thorough and efficient education comparable to that of the board of education. The non-public school must provide services that are non-sectarian, comply with all relevant state laws and agreed upon by the parent. The final two programs available to students with disabilities are instruction in other appropriate settings and early intervention programs in which a child has been enrolled for the balance of the school year in which the child turns the age 3.

In order to be eligible for the special education programs aforementioned, a student must be referred. A referral, according to the Parental Rights in Special Education, PRISE, is a written request for an evaluation that is given to the school district when a child is suspected of having a disability and might need special education services. New Jersey State law states that a referral can be made by parents, school personnel and agencies concerned with the welfare of students. When a referral is made a school district must hold a meeting within 20 calendar days to decide whether an evaluation needs to be conducted. If the district concludes that an evaluation must be conducted, another decision is made about what types of testing and other procedures are required to determine whether or not a child needs special education services.

Once an evaluation is completed, a student's eligibility is decided collaboratively at a follow up meeting. There are 3 major factors that contribute to a child being considered suitable for special education and/or related services. First, a student must have a disability according to one of the eligibility categories listed in IDEA. Second, the disability must adversely affect the students academic performance. Third, the student must be in need of special education and related services. When a child is deemed



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