Opinion | When Students With Disabilities Are Removed From the Classroom

More from our inbox:

To the Editor:

Re “Students With Disabilities Are Secretly Removed From School” (front page, Feb. 10), about “off the book” suspensions of these students:

We are all too happy to reprimand school personnel for informal removals, but we fail to recognize the root cause of the issue.

First, a classroom with one teacher responsible for about 25 kids does not work for everyone. Many students with disabilities need more support. Even if the practice of informal removals ends, as it should, those kids will still go back to classrooms that are not fit to serve their needs.

Second, to create general and special education classrooms that set these students up for success costs money.

Schools need more money for special education services, such as aides, behavior interventionists, school psychologists and counselors. Teachers and school personnel need to be paid more, so schools can attract and retain quality educators.

Most teachers and principals are doing what they can within the reality of their circumstances. Instead of criticizing the individuals, we need to look at the system.

More funding is the only possible solution.

Lauren Brauckmann
Somerville, Mass.
The writer is a former elementary school teacher.

To the Editor:

The informal removal of students points to insufficient teacher training and cracks in the overburdened school system. Educators are teaching an increasingly neurodiverse student population. According to recent statistics, 89 percent of educators have at least one student with an individualized education plan in their classrooms.

Students with disabilities often learn alongside their general education peers. While this is a win for special educators, who have long championed the academic and social benefits of inclusion for both general and special education students, teacher training has not kept up with these increases. All educators need and deserve comprehensive, systemwide training models that support them. We need to foster learning environments in which students feel an authentic sense of belonging.

Some of the most effective training models are university-public school partnerships and professional development supports that offer educators the opportunity to learn about how best to support their neurodivergent students from the true experts: those with lived experience.

The problem isn’t the student. The problem — and the opportunity for growth — lies in how we’re training and supporting that educator.

Kristie K. Patten
Lauren Hough Williams
New York
Dr. Patten is a vice dean and professor at the N.Y.U. Steinhardt School of Culture Education and Human Development. Ms. Hough Williams is the executive director of the university’s Program for Inclusion and Neurodiversity Education.

To the Editor:

I teach high school science at a public school. Students with disabilities absolutely deserve a free and public education, like everyone else. But when the needs of these students aren’t met in a regular classroom, some can be disruptive or violent, and teaching them alongside regular education students becomes impossible.

Why should the educational experience be ruined for 25 kids because one student became disruptive? Why should I be forced to educate all of these kids together when they clearly have different needs, and therefore I can meet none of them? These issues are so severe that teachers are quitting in droves and public schools are failing.

In spite of this crisis, The Times chose to publish an article blaming teachers for something we have little control over. As a teacher, all I can do is show up and do my best with what I have and with who is in my classroom. Administrators have the power to remove students or dole out accommodations — not I.

Jessica Fleming

To the Editor:

I worked for many years in a private school in Boston that served disabled students. It was one of the best work experiences of my life.

Although the students came to the school with cognitive, social and communicative difficulties, their greatest obstacle was clearly a sense of low self-worth. After years of failing both academically and socially in regular school settings, they were finally placed in our program, which met their most fundamental needs and grew their positive self-esteem.

Not everyone is verbally and academically gifted. Integrating disabled students in general education is certainly important, but not at the cost of damaging a child’s sense of self-worth.

Theodore Markus
Stuart, Fla.
The writer is a retired speech language pathologist.

Old People in Japan, and in America

To the Editor:

Re “Scholar Suggests Mass Suicide for Japan’s Old. Does He Mean It?” (front page, Feb. 13):

Japan needs to overhaul its laws about how to treat elderly patients who are terminally ill or brain-dead and on life support, so they can die with dignity.

At the moment, it may be considered murder if a doctor decides to take a patient off life support (the family cannot make these decisions), and doctors have been prosecuted for doing so. Advanced directives are meaningless since they are not accepted if the outcome of refusal of treatment ends in death.

Inherent in Japanese culture is the hierarchical structure of respecting elders and pride in longevity. These societal values are at odds with the practical, medical and emotional needs that the elderly and their families find themselves in when they are faced with situations that offer no recovery.

The comments about mass suicide by Yusuke Narita, an assistant professor of economics at Yale, may be extreme, but I believe that he is attempting to initiate a discussion among the Japanese, particularly the legal and political establishments that have been unwilling to resolve the crisis facing the elderly in that country.

Shirley Kaneda
New York

To the Editor:

While the comments quoted in your article are extreme, I do believe that older people should have the ability to end their life painlessly and on their own terms.

Prove illness, explain your reasons and get help. Do not become someone waiting to die or lying in bed with unremitting pain, no longer enjoying life and taking away from others.

I am a healthy, financially stable 80-year-old citizen and would be relieved to know that I would have that option. My family agrees.

Myra Levy
Rockville Centre, N.Y.

How Trump Will Campaign in 2024

To the Editor:

Re “Will Trump and Biden Gang Up on DeSantis?” by Ross Douthat (column, Feb. 12):

Mr. Douthat’s preview of Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign strategy argues that he will emphasize his Republican opponents’ unpopular past policy positions when running against them.

But this analysis gives far more credit to Mr. Trump than he deserves. While those policy shortcomings and differences clearly exist, when has he ever focused on policy issues?

His style is to make personal aspersions and to launch fabricated assaults on his foes and their family members. He’s not about to change that modus operandi, as reflected in his insinuation the other day that Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida preyed on teenage girls years ago when he was a teacher.

Just as leopards don’t change their spots, our former president is not going to be spotted highlighting policy differences when he can take the low road that so naturally suits him.

Marshall H. Tanick

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