The New Brunswick Education Act states that a school district’s Director of Education can decide whether or not any child will be considered an “exceptional pupil”. This term is given to children if it felt that they require a “special education program” because their disability contributes to “delayed educational development”. In other words, additional help is considered to be necessary to allow a child to participate in school.
Decisions about whether your child is or is not “exceptional” should not be taken lightly. Being considered exceptional is likely something that will follow your child through his or her days in school (and perhaps afterwards). Be sure that you feel that this is necessary. Having your child called exceptional is often required in order to have services and supports provided. Under the law, the school district is required to consult with parents to decide whether or not children are exceptional. This does not mean that you have a right to decide that your child should or should not be declared exceptional.
According to the law, every child who is identified as “exceptional” is to have a special education program. The key to these programs are “special education plans” which spell out a child’s school curriculum and the kind of support the child may require. More information about Special Education Plans can be found in the section Planning for Inclusion and a Quality Education.
School districts are required to provide an education in regular classrooms to children who are considered exceptional. But the law also allows the school district superintendent to decide whether the education of exceptional children in regular classrooms is something that can be accomplished after he or she has considered the “educational needs of all the pupils”.
The affect of the law is that children identified as exceptional have a qualified right to be educated in regular classrooms. If the school district believes or decides that your child should not be educated in a regular class, it has the duty to show why a regular class education is not possible.
The Education Act also states that parents of children under the age of 19 can appeal “placement” decisions of the school district regarding their children. Decisions about placement can mean decisions about classes, programs, services, and schools. Appeals provide an important way to challenge decisions that deny opportunities for a child to be educated in regular classes.
It is extremely important to remember that the physical presence of your child in a regular class does not necessary mean that he or she is included. Your school district and local school may be following the law by allowing your child to be in a regular class. They may not, however, be doing more to ensure that your child actively participates in the classroom, is learning appropriate material, and has opportunities to be involved with other children. Having rights and being educated in regular classrooms is only the beginning. Ensuring that all children are active members of their classrooms and schools, and are learning, will require personal commitment and effort of the part of many people.
Suggestions for Parents
Know and understand the provincial laws and policies affecting your child.
Know the rights your child has to an inclusive education.
Find out the philosophy and practices of your local school district and your child’s school. Do they truly support inclusion?
Become familiar with “best practices” for inclusion. Try to find out if these are being followed in your child’s school. For more information about best practices, see the section on Additional On-Line Resources.
Talk with parents whose children are participating regularly in regular classrooms and who have other opportunities. How are different schools or school districts promoting inclusive education?
Be prepared to appeal decisions regarding your child’s education that you do not agree with.
Remember that even progressive laws and policies do not guarantee inclusion. Inclusion will only happen with the commitment and effort during everyday of the school year.