EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Special education students in Utah should be included in mainstream classes, lawmaker says

Feb 16, 2024, 7:30 AM

a special education teacher and her students, utah...

Jennifer Levy, a special education paraprofessional, works with Orlando Negron in Murray on Friday, May 3, 2019. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that aims to create a program in Utah to include special education students in general education classrooms was heard for the first time Thursday morning.

Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, is sponsoring the bill. If passed, it would deliver a grant-based pilot program to Utah’s schools.

The bill would create a five-year pilot program to get trained special education teachers into mainstream classrooms.

The issue right now, Judkins said, is students in special education classrooms aren’t getting their needs met.

“Students with disabilities in so many schools are languishing. They are not receiving content instruction, they are being othered, they are seen as a disruption,” Judkins said.

The other issue is that students in special education classrooms are placed with students of different grades, rather than their peers.

This is no fault of Utah’s educators though, Judkins said. It’s because they currently don’t have the support or resources they need.

She believes the program will provide that.

The program gets trained special education teachers into the same classroom as general education teachers and students. That way, kids with disabilities can successfully participate with their peers.

“This bill would be good on so many levels, for the whole classroom and the whole school.”

She wants this program to foster a safe and inclusive space. Judkins said she thinks the program would help general education students learn from a group they may not often be around.

“If we can mainstream and include and support and create success for everyone, that’s what we want.”

Utah’s House Education Committee gave the bill a favorable recommendation on Thursday.

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Special education students in Utah should be included in mainstream classes, lawmaker says