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Legislative & Policy Spotlight

DRP Urges Philadelphia School Reform Commission to Make Integration of Students with Disabilities Mandatory

When the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) proposed to open a segregated special education program for hundreds of students with disabilities, including 120 students with disabilities on a waiting list for an approved private school, DRP joined with a number of other organizations in opposing it.

After DRP requested information about the 120 students on the waiting list and after meeting with DRP staff and advocates from other organizations, the SRC scaled back its proposal, which, as revised, sought to create an alternative special education program to serve 100 students with disabilities.

DRP opposed this proposal as well due to, among other things, concerns about ensuring that the students, who have low-incident disabilities such as autism, emotional disturbance and intellectual disabilities, will be provided with a high-quality individualized education in the least restrictive environment. DRP Staff Attorney Gabe LaBella testified before the SRC: “When provided with appropriate mental health, behavioral and therapeutic education services and supports, the vast majority of students with disabilities can participate in the curriculum, instruction, elective courses, extracurricular activities, and other education services in an integrated setting, including general and special education classrooms in the students’ neighborhood schools.”  As LaBella explained, “inclusion “should not be aspirational, it should be required.” Despite these concerns, the SRC ultimately passed the resolution. DRP firmly believes that the District has the opportunity now to invest resources in developing programming to meet students’ needs in neighborhood schools through the IEP process and inclusive placements. DRP will continue to monitor the implementation of this program to ensure compliance with the law and advocate for Philadelphia’s students with disabilities.

Read Ms. Labella’s full testimony here