Mainstream or Self-Contained?-The Special Education Advocate

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    ”’Dear Advocate:”’

    The Department of Education is telling me that if I want my child to continue to receive services under the Americans with Disabilities Act (504 plan), I have to agree to put him in a self-contained classroom for a “social skills class” administered by a School Behavioral Health person or special ed teacher. I feel my son belongs in a mainstream classroom. What should I do?


    — Upset

    ”’Dear Upset:”’

    First, write to your principal and get that statement in writing. For example, “It is my understanding that in order for my child to continue to receive services under ADA (or IDEA, depending on the situation), I must agree to place him in a self-contained classroom. Is this your position as administrator of the school?” Request a response within 5 business days. Section 504 states that “no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under” any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency. …

    Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for those with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations. Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. For information on how to file 504 complaints with the appropriate agency, contact:

    U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Disability Rights Section – NYAV, Washington, D.C. 20530

    ”’The Special Education Advocate is a collaboration of parents, advocates, doctors and attorneys who answer the daily questions parents and providers have about the ever-changing rules and regulations of state agencies and suggestions on how to advocate for any special needs child. The goal of the Advocate is not to be adversarial, rather for better outcomes for children through parent education and assistance. We welcome all of your concerns as you join our online support group. Send questions to:”’