Integration → Inclusion → Oblivion
There is a widespread belief that the mainstreaming/integration/inclusion movement began with the passage in 1975 of Public Law 94-142, the Education of all Handicapped Children Act, subsequently reauthorized as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), with its mandate for placement of all disabled children in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), a term that has never been adequately defined, but roughly interpreted as educational placement with “nondisabled” children to the greatest extent possible. In fact, the process began more than a generation before PL 94-142 and we may trace its beginnings to shortly after the ending of World War II in 1945. In 1940, prior to America’s entrance into the war, its population was 132,000,000. Latest estimates for 2010 place the population around 310,000,000, an increase of almost 180,000,000 in a 70-year period. There are several reasons for this, including an extended “baby-boom” after the war, a relatively high birth rate for an industrialized country, and immigration.
At the beginning of the 1940s, educational placement for deaf students was similar to what it had been for the previous 60 or 70 years; the majority of deaf children were educated in residential schools for the deaf and a significant minority attended separate day schools for the deaf in large cities. Many of the residential schools, especially in geographically large states, acted in loco parentis. Children would live in the schools for long periods of time, perhaps going home for winter and spring breaks and for summer vacation.
The situation began to change in the early part of the 1950s, when the first wave of baby boom children began kindergarten and elementary school. State legislatures, struggling to build schools to accommodate the surging school population, were reluctant to commit funding for residential schools for the deaf. When the rubella epidemic struck the United States in the middle of the 1960s, resulting in a doubling of the number of deaf children born in that period, the baby boom had subsided and there was space in regular public schools to place the deaf children. By 1970, well before enactment of PL 94-142, fewer than half of deaf children in the United States attended residential schools. PL 94-142 ensured that the trend continues, but it was not the original impetus.
The number of residential schools did not increase, but remained stable despite population growth. Recently, several have been closed or converted to day school programs. In 1940 the combined population of California (7 million), Texas (6 million), and Florida (5 million) was 18 million. The three states had a total of four residential schools: two in Texas, one in California, and one in Florida. In 2010 the combined population of California (37 million), Texas (25 million), and Florida (19 million) was 81 million, four and one-half times as large as the combined population in 1940. Currently, the three states still have a total of four residential schools; California added one in 1953 and Texas closed one.
In fact, the term, “residential” may be a misnomer for many, probably most, of the present schools. The schools no longer function in loco parentis. With improved transportation, many children, especially those in elementary grades, commute from home daily and most schools send students home frequently, even on a weekly basis. In fact in some areas, the term “center” school is replacing “residential” school and the traditional sign for a residential school, with the “i” hand shape to signify “institution,” giving way to the sign for “center.”
According to the Gallaudet Research Institute 2007–08 Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth (November 2008) 60% of deaf and hard of hearing students are in regular school settings with hearing students and an additional 10% are in resource rooms in “regular” [End Page 395] (with hearing children) school settings, meaning they are taught along with hearing children in content areas such as mathematics, science, and social studies for a total of 70%. In reality, the percentages are probably much higher. The IDEA mandated Child Count annual report of states to Congress identifies...