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More Inclusion in Detroit Ends Four Years of Sanctions

For the first time in four years, Detroit public schools are meeting state and federal special education requirements.

The school district said Thursday that as a result, the district will get $4.8 million in special education money withheld from the district last school year.

To reform its special education program, the district boosted the number of students spending at least 80 percent of their school day in general education settings from about 28 percent in 2006 to 38 percent last school year.

About 12,000 of Detroit's 73,000 students are in the special education program.

The state began monitoring the district in 2008 because just 31 percent of its students spent at least 80 percent of their time in regular classes while the state average was 57 percent, according to The Detroit News.

At times, the work of treating students with disabilities, even those with mild needs, in more mainstream educational settings was difficult.

The district also developed handbooks and written procedures for working with students with disabilities and trained staff extensively in a number of areas, including how and when to suspend students with disabilities from school. Part of that effort included revising the Detroit school discipline handbook.

Federal law requires that students with disabilities be placed in the least restrictive environment at school. That means most students should not be totally isolated from students without disabilities for most of the day.

Detroit public schools have been going through a series of hardships in recent years. The state has stepped in, and the district is working on converting some of its schools to charters.

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