Inclusive Education


Our inclusion advocacy is driven by your experiences and voices.

We want to hear from you, connect you with other families in your region, and connect you with a growing grassroots network of parents interested in advocating at the local and state level for inclusive education.

Tell us about the obstacles and barriers you’ve faced. Tell us about how something went well. Tell us what inclusive education would mean for you and/or your student!


‘What is The Arc of Virginia’s position on inclusive education?

Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the right to be educated in general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools with appropriate services, supplementary aids, and supports.

What is inclusive education?

Inclusive education is grounded in the belief that students with disabilities have a right to be educated in general education classrooms and that all students (with and without disabilities) learn differently. To accommodate the different learning needs of students, instruction is differentiated to support students’ learning styles, strengths, and needs in general education classrooms in neighborhood schools.

What are the benefits?

Inclusion promotes compassion and understanding of differences and natural human diversity.  Children without disabilities also benefit, and is demonstrated by higher standardized test scores in reading and math.

Children with disabilities in inclusive classrooms have:

  • Higher reading and math scores
  • Better social and communication skills
  • Higher graduation rates
  • Fewer referrals for disruptive behavior

Inclusion works (when done well).

Students with I/DD in general education classrooms must be provided supports, accommodations, and services to ensure they can access the curriculum and make progress in the general education classroom. Placement alone does not make a classroom inclusive; however, supports that allow students with I/DD participate meaningfully in the classroom can facilitate inclusion.

It is necessary to recognize that all students learn differently. Differentiated instruction, and offering the entire class a variety of ways to access the material benefits all students (with and without disabilities).

General education teachers cannot do it alone. For students with disabilities to have access to quality instruction in general education settings, administrators need to embrace and promote a culture of inclusion though systemic changes that allow for collaboration, creative supports and instruction, and training. General education teachers must also work closely with special education teachers and related services staff to identify and provide the supports necessary for students with disabilities to access the curriculum in their classrooms.

Does the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) require that schools and classrooms be inclusive?  (IDEA vs. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA))

Compliance with IDEA does not necessarily equate to the civil rights protections in ADA.

IDEA requires the “least restrictive environment” where students’ needs can be met. If a neighborhood school does not have the capacity to provide adequate services and accommodations to support a student’s participation in that learning environment, IDEA allows for a separate setting, which is often segregated and/or not in the student’s neighborhood school. IDEA does not have an integration mandate—rather a “least restrictive environment” mandate.

On the other hand, ADA requires schools to provide people with disabilities with an education and with educational opportunities that are equal to that of their peers without disabilities. It also prohibits the unjustified segregation of people with disabilities.

Read more about this at:

DOJ Findings Letter: Investigation finds Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) Program violates ADA.

A thorough investigation of Georgia’s GNETS program found that the State of Georgia is in violation of the ADA for the following reasons:

  • Unnecessary systemic reliance on the segregated GNETS Program across the State of Georgia as a result of the State’s administration, operation, and funding of the GNETS program, including the GNETS Program’s admissions, services and facilities.
  • Violates ADA by unnecessarily segregating students with disabilities from their peers.
  • GNETS provides opportunities that are unequal to those provided to students who are not in the program.

The DOJ finds that Georgia can make reasonable accommodations to avoid discrimination:

Georgia can redirect existing services, resources, training, and financial and human capital to appropriately integrate students with disabilities in the GNETS Program into general education schools and offer them full and equal opportunities to participate in electives, extracurricular activities, coursework, and other educational benefits and services enjoyed by their peers. The evidence indicates that doing so would not constitute a fundamental alteration under Title II.

DOJ Recommendations:

  • Amend the policies that discriminate
  • Ensure that students are educated in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs
  • Identify and provide services, systems, and supports that students will need for successful integration into general education schools.
  • Conduct ongoing outreach to families and general education schools of GNETS program students to inform them that services and supports will be available to them in their local schools

Read the findings letter here: Findings Letter, Georgia (July 15, 2015)


Findings Letter, Georgia (July 15, 2015)

Virginia Department of Education, Regional Special Education Programs

Georgia Department of Education, GNETS Program

DOJ Findings Letter, GNETS Violates ADA (The Arc of VA, Webinar, July 30, 2015)

Commission on Youth Studies (See “The Use of Federal, State, and Local Funds for Private Educational Placements of Students with Disabilities—Year Two”)

“Including Me In Virginia” Facebook Page

Press on Georgia’s Findings Letter