Washington Law Review


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states that wish to qualify for federal assistance to demonstrate that they have a policy ensuring all children with disabilities the right to a "free appropriate public education." IDEA also requires that disabled children be educated with nondisabled children "to the maximum extent appropriate." This Article focuses on the tension between IDEA's mandates for appropriate education and integration to the maximum extent appropriate. Advocates of full inclusion claim that, under IDEA, all disabled children-regardless of characteristics-must be placed in the general education classroom for the entire day. Many courts have tacitly accepted some of the premises of full inclusion advocates. In fact, some courts have strongly suggested that the purported social benefits of inclusion can be more important than either the academic achievement of the disabled child or the cost to the learning environment in the general classroom. This Article explains how the courts have erred in their analyses of the statute, and illustrates how some of the critiques that have been set forth in the education literature relate to the inclusion inquiry. The Article then discusses the critique of the racial integration model, a point of view that has been largely ignored by full inclusion advocates and the courts that have accepted their premises. Finally, the Article contends that in a community of learning such as the public school classroom, the primary objective must be to impart a serious education to all students.

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