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State Considers Change In Special Needs Student Policy

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Thousands of people are protesting a proposed change for special education classrooms.

The Illinois State Board of Education will vote Thursday on whether it should lift limits for special needs kids in regular and special ed classrooms.

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports that some parents call the thoughts terrifying.

Canyon Viets is a four-year-old preschool student who has autism.

He currently attends Beard Elementary, on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Beard is a pre-K through third-grade school for special needs students like him.

His mother says current special education class-size limits help him thrive. However, if the Illinois State Board of Education eliminates those limits, Laurie Viets fears the worst.

“It’s really terrifying about what kinds of chaos it could cause in our classrooms,” Viets said.

Currently, a maximum of 15 special needs students are allowed in a special ed classroom.

In addition, no more than 30 percent of students in a general classroom can have special needs, or an individual education plan.

And what might happen if the limits are lifted?

“They are not going to get the attention they need, the kids in general are not going to get the attention they need and the teachers are not going to get the support they need,” Viets said.

Amy Zimmerman, a health and disability advocate, says she fears drop-out rates would increase as well.

However, the state superintendent says current limits are too restrictive. Lifting them would benefit special needs students in the districts.

“If we prescribe by the way you can have only a certain percentage of kids with disabilities [in a class], you are going to have the unintended impact of excluding students with disabilities from a content area,” Supt. Chris Koch said.

In other words, it would limit student opportunities.

Koch acknowledges losing the limits would also free up money for districts to use at their discretion.

Many parents and child health advocates believe some districts would choose not to spend those dollars on special ed.

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