Public Law 94-142 (The Education for all Handicapped Children Act) of 1975 mainstreamed students with disabilities into regular public school classes for instructional purposes and with as much social interaction between non-handicapped peers as possible. With growing class sizes and increasing accountability demands within schools, research has shown that many teachers feel burdened by exceptional students in their classrooms. The intent of this descriptive study was to investigate the attitudes of local band directors and compare their opinions with pros and cons of mainstreaming as identified by previous studies.
Following an examination of current research investigating how mainstreaming affects students and educators in all settings, a survey was devised and administered to eleven middle school and high school band directors in several suburban school districts in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California. Participants in these particular districts were chosen because of their similar proximity to Los Angeles as outer ring districts within Los Angeles County, as well as comparable demographic and socioeconomic status.
Survey questions were developed based on previous research in issues surrounding mainstreaming. The survey intended to identify the attitudes of band directors toward the concept of mainstreaming, how it affects their classrooms, and how willing they are to help an exceptional child who is placed in band. A pilot survey was administered to select special education, choral, and band teachers to ensure clarity of the questions and credibility of the survey. Results of the survey were compared to previous research on mainstreaming issues to determine the attitudes of these local band directors.
The band directors surveyed in this study generally supported having exceptional students placed into their classroom and also felt that those students should have the same educational opportunities than other children, as long as it is done appropriately. Unlike previous studies, the band directors surveyed in this study indicated that they receive plenty of support from special education teachers and administrators as well as sufficient training in teaching exceptional students. However, although these band directors revealed that having students with disabilities placed in the classroom benefited all students, they implied that it was not beneficial for them as teachers. Even so, most of the band directors in this study indicated that they were willing to make modifications to their teaching and classroom surroundings to accommodate students with disabilities in their classrooms.
The results of this study suggest that educators have come a long way since PL 94-142 was first implemented in 1975, and that local band directors support having students with disabilities in their classrooms. While it is encouraging that teachers are accommodating these students, the band directors in this study indicated that schools still need to provide more individual support for these students by providing more tutors and aids to assist students with disabilities mainstreamed into the classroom.