Here at Ivie Law Group, we receive the most questions about Least Restrictive Environment. School district folks often tell parents that their child must be educated in a self-contained classroom. While this may be appropriate for many children; it is not for everyone.
We hear about children having to earn their way into general education with good behavior, or better academic work. Parents often tell us that they are told that if they want general education time, they will have to revoke all special education services in order to get general education time. A child does not have to earn general education time, and it is not necessary to revoke special education in order to be in general education! Below are basic concepts and terms related to LRE that all parents of special education children must become familiar with:
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
The LRE Mandate Under the IDEA, at 34 CFR 300.114 states that each school district must ensure that to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, are educated with children who are non-disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily. The IEP team must begin with the assumption that the child will be educated in the regular education environment, including both academic and nonacademic classes as well as extracurricular activities. The team must consider what supports and services can be provided to keep the child in the general education environment.
The regular class may not be the appropriate placement for all children, but removal must be justified and based upon the inability to meet the child’s IEP goals and objectives in the regular education environment, so the placement decision can only be made at the end of the IEP. The U.S. Supreme Court has not heard an LRE case, but there are important guiding decisions from four Circuit Courts that provide judicial standards that must be followed states. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (covers Nevada) adopted the four-factor test (Holland Standard) for determining whether regular education placement or special education placement was the appropriate setting for a child with an I.Q. of 44. The Holland Standard includes the following considerations:
1) The educational benefits of placement in the regular class;
2) The non-academic benefits of such placement;
3) The effect of the student’s presence on the teacher and on other students;
4) The cost.
The court found that Rachel Holland received educational benefit in a regular class placement. The court also found that Rachel’s presence did not have a detrimental impact on the teacher or other students, and Sacramento was unable to convince the court that the cost of including Rachel in the regular education classroom was prohibitive. http://openjurist.org/14/13d/1398/sacramento-city-unified-school-district-board -of-education-v-rachel-holland (1994)
LRE is a particularly important issue in special education and including children in the general education classroom is second only to FAPE. If a child requires a more restrictive placement in order to receive FAPE, then the IEP team can make that justification — but segregated placements, under the law, cannot be automatic, in the classroom.