Meeting Your Child’s Needs In School
The law is clear that students should be placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE) in which they can receive a free appropriate public education. While the law defines that as being “educated with children who are not disabled,” school districts generally consider any out-of-district placement, even one with nondisabled students, to be more restrictive than the child’s local public school.
When you need help fighting for your child’s rights to services in their school, reach out to the team at Feinstein Education Law Group. Our attorneys have been serving the needs of Connecticut students for over 25 years.
Requirements Under The Law
The mandate for inclusion is a direct reaction to the situation pre-1975, when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act became law. At that time, students with disabilities were regularly excluded from the public schools and, frequently, provided with no education whatsoever. Many saw the passage of the IDEA as a mandate for access, rather than as a guarantee of a quality education.
Through litigation, a right to be included in the mainstream to the maximum extent appropriate has been created. Note that there is no trade-off between inclusion and a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE is required. LRE requires that the FAPE be provided in the least restrictive environment.
The law contemplates a continuum of placements, with a regular education class with no supports being the least restrictive and a hospitalized setting being the most. In between are co-taught class, support of a paraprofessional in the regular class, push-in services, pull out services, resource rooms, self-contained classes, etc. These placements are based on a set of eligibility criteria used to evaluate the student’s needs.
For many students with disabilities, being educated with their typical peers serves as modeling and motivation. For many others, however, being in a regular class setting produces embarrassment and a feeling of inadequacy. How your child reacts emotionally to the educational setting is an enormously important ingredient in that child’s learning.
Further, education is defined in the IDEA as going far beyond academics. Social and emotional growth and development are also a critical part of the school’s mission. For some students, being in regular classes with the neighborhood kids is the right place. For others, it is absolutely the wrong place. Special education is not a one-size-fits-all program. Your child’s educational program needs to be individually designed to meet your child’s needs.
A wide variety of services and supports are available in public schools. Remember, the IEP must be created to fit the individual needs of a particular student. Special education is not a setting in which students with disabilities are placed. Rather, the school needs to create programs that meet the needs of the student.