Interim Alternative Educational Settings School District Implementation of IDEA 1997 Requirements

By Telzrow, Cathy F. | Education & Treatment of Children, February 2001 | Go to article overview

Interim Alternative Educational Settings School District Implementation of IDEA 1997 Requirements


Telzrow, Cathy F., Education & Treatment of Children


Abstract

Implementation of the Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (IDEA 97) was examined through telephone interviews with special education directors in randomly selected Ohio school districts. The majority of respondents reported that no students with disabilities had been removed to an IAES since IDEA 97 went into effect. Reasons cited for long-term removal to an IAES varied by district type and size. Home Instruction, Altemative Schools/Programs, and In-School Suspension were the most frequently identified settings used by school districts when removing students to an IAES, although several respondents reported that these failed to meet one or more of the design features for IAES that are required by IDEA 97. Respondents reported that IAES use provided moderate benefit to students, with a trend toward more positive effects on schools.

Concerns about school safety and student behavior are of significant importance for educators and the general public. For several consecutive years, "lack of discipline," "use of drugs," and "fighting, violence, gangs" have emerged among the top problems facing schools in the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll (Rose & Gallup, 1998, 1999; Rose, Gallup, & Elam, 1997). As many as 100,000 students are reported to bring weapons to school each day (Goldstein & Conoley, 1997), and over 50% of high school seniors indicate they have used alcohol during the previous month Uohnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 1995). In response to increasing concerns about safety in our nation's schools, Boards of Education have enacted "zero tolerance" policies, designed to immediately remove students who violate school conduct codes (Bowditch, 1993; Skiba & Peterson, 1999). As a result of these policies, an increasing number of young people have been recommended for expulsion from school (Imich, 1994; Skiba, Peterson, & Williams, 1997).

Applying strict school removal policies to students with disabilities has been restricted by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's (IDEA) fundamental requirement for the provision of a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) (Yell, Clime, & Bradley, 1995). Increasingly during the decade of the 1990s, school administrators and teachers viewed this disparity in school district authority to discipline students with and without disabilities as a significant threat to school safety (Butera, Klein, McMullen, & Wilson, 1998; Yell et al., 1995). Print and television features highlighted the challenges faced by schools that were prohibited from removing students with disabilities from general education environments despite the commission of serious aggressive acts and the customary expulsion of non-disabled students for similar offenses. The American Federation of Teachers underscored the risks to school safety resulting from the legal right of students with disabilities to FAPE by adopting a position s tatement that asserted "no disruptive, disorderly or dangerous student, whether disabled or not, should be allowed to remain where he or she can disturb or threaten other students' (American Federation of Teachers, 1996; Bader, 1997).

This tension between educator groups striving to insure safe instructional and extracurricular environments for students, and advocates who were committed to the retention of FAPE, climaxed during the most recent reauthorization of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments, 1997; IDEA 97). Originally scheduled to occur in 1995, the reauthorization was delayed and nearly derailed in large part because of issues surrounding discipline. The Interim Alternative Education Setting (IAES) provision was designed to address both the needs of educators who argued that immediate removal from school is essential when students commit serious conduct violations, and the goals of advocates who contended that no student with disabilities must be denied FAPE (Bear, 1999). …

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