What Makes Special Education Special?

The Special School District in St. Louis County, Missouri has an annual budget over $400 Million for 7 schools, over 2600 teachers, and over 24,000 students.

The July 2002 President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education revealed the source of a deeply troubled Special Education system: 40 percent of kids are being labeled with “learning disorders” simply because they have not been taught to read. This finding leaves no doubt that the subjectivity of the term “learning disorder” must be a central point of Special Education reform.

Eighty percent of children (or 2.4 million) labeled as having a “specific learning disability” could be taught in a normal school setting but with greater emphasis on phonics and academic basics. We suspect that all children, not just special school district children, could benefit from this.

State and federal governments are already wasting $28 billion per year due to unscientific categories in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This money would be better channeled into providing more teachers and workable educational methods that get actual results.

The DSM-5 lists these ridiculous items of “mental illness”:

  • “Academic or educational problem”
  • “Specific learning disorder”
  • “Specific learning disorder, With impairment in mathematics”
  • “Specific learning disorder, With impairment in reading”
  • “Specific learning disorder, With impairment in written expression”

The primary purpose of Congress’ original IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) law in 1975 was to provide a free and appropriate education for children with hearing, sight, speech and other physical handicaps. When the term “handicapped” was changed to “learning disabled,” children who fidget, interrupt their teachers, or simply fall behind academically were suddenly considered “disabled.”

Over the ensuing years, the funding has been largely funneled, instead, to children with “learning disorders,” a term so subjective that children who fidget, butt into line or interrupt their teachers are so labeled. In most cases the children were subsequently prescribed cocaine-like, mind-altering drugs. Many of these children simply have never been taught to read. Clearly, there is a critical need to provide an objective, scientifically based definition of “learning disability,” and this must be the central point of reforming IDEA.

Labeling a child with these “disorders” led to school personnel threatening parents to place their child on a psychiatric drug as a requisite to remaining in class, or face the child being dismissed from school.

Due to the hazards of these drugs, in order to receive federal funds under the IDEA, the “Prohibition on Mandatory Medication Amendment” (H.R.1350) was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 3, 2004 and requires schools to implement policies that prohibit schoolchildren being forced onto psychiatric drugs as a requisite for their education. The law states, “The psychological/psychiatric system should not be able to abuse Special Education by diagnosing childhood and educational problems and failure as ‘mental disorders.'”

Email Special School District Superintendent Don Bohannon at dbohannon@ssdmo.org and let him know what you think about this.

Click here for more information about mental health screening in schools.

Leave a Reply