SPECIAL EDUCATION RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Chapter 7

Information on Least Restrictive Environment

From a 12-Chapter Manual - Available by Chapter and in Manual Form

Seventh Edition

Written by: Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE)

and Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI)

Copyright © 1992 by CASE and PAI - Revised January 1998

Written permission of the Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) and Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI) must be obtained for duplication of the materials contained in Special Education Rights and Responsibilities.

These materials are based on special education laws and court decisions in effect at the time of publication. Federal and state special education law can change at any time. If there is any question about the continued validity of any information in the handbook, contact CASE, PAI or a legal authority in your community.

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 Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE), provides legal support, representation, technical assistance consultations, and training to parents throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area whose children need appropriate special education services. Trained advocates and attorneys assist parents at IEP meetings, Mediation Conferences and Due Process Hearings. CASE also provides free consultations about special education rights and services to parents and professionals by telephone or face-to-face. CASE is a nonprofit organization serving all children with disabilities who need or may need special education services. For more information, contact:

CASE

  • 1031 Franklin Street, Suite B5, San Francisco, CA 94109, Tel. - (415) 928-2273, FAX - (415) 928-2289
  • 680 W. Tennyson Road, Room 1, Hayward, CA 94544, Tel. - (510) 783-5333, FAX - (510) 783-8822
  • CASE-South Bay Legal Aid Society of Santa Clara County, 480 North First Street, San Jose, CA 95103, Tel. - (408) 283-1535

Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI), is a private, nonprofit organization that protects the legal, civil and service rights of Californians who have developmental or mental disabilities. PAI provides a variety of advocacy services, including information and referral, technical assistance, and direct representation. For information or assistance with an immediate problem, call:

PAI

Toll Free/TTY: (800) 776-5746

8:30 AM to 5:00 PM - Monday through Friday

  • Central Office, 100 Howe Ave., Suite 185-N, Sacramento, CA 95828, Legal Unit - (916) 488-9950 / Administrative - (916) 488-9955
  • Southern California Area Office, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 902, Los Angeles CA 90010, Tel. - (213) 427-8747
  • San Francisco Bay Area Office, 449 - 15th Street, Suite 401, Oakland, CA 94612, Tel. - (510) 839-0811

PAI receives funding under the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act and the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act. Any opinions, findings, recommendations or conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations which fund PAI.


On June 4, 1997, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was amended by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. Most of the new provisions in IDEA became effective on that date. Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) and Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (PAI) have incorporated these amended IDEA provisions into the Seventh Edition of the Special Education Rights and Responsibilities (SERR) manual.

Because special education services in California are funded in part with federal money, these IDEA amendments take precedence over any prior inconsistent federal law or current state law, except where state law provides more protections or at least the same level of protections. In this edition of SERR, citations of federal law refer to the section numbers where these amendments appear in federal law at Title 20 of the United States Code. Citations of federal regulations refer to current, unrevised federal regulations at Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations. State citations refer to current California law and regulations.

New federal regulations must now be developed to implement the new federal statutes. The new federal regulations are supposed to be issued by July 1, 1998. However, this process may take longer. In addition, California special education law and implementing regulations will also be amended once federal regulations are issued. CASE and PAI will monitor the development of these final federal regulations, and state law and regulations, so that final federal and state laws and regulations can be incorporated into later supplements and editions of SERR.

It is important for you to know that the Individual Education Program (IEP) provisions of the IDEA amendments do not become effective until July 1, 1998. Since IEPs written for the 1998099 school year must meet the new IDEA IEP requirements, CASE and PAI have chosen to include these new IEP provisions in this edition of the SERR manual (Chapter 4). We hope that this information will help as you develop IEPs for the 1998-99 school year and beyond.

For further information on the development of federal and state law and regulation, or clarification about IDEA implementation, please contact CASE or PAI.


SPECIAL EDUCATION

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1 Information on Basic Rights and Responsibilities

Chapter 2 Information on Evaluations/Assessments

Chapter 3 Information on Eligibility Criteria

Chapter 4 Information on IEP Process

Chapter 5 Information on Related Services

Chapter 6 Information on Due Process Hearings/Compliance Complaints

Chapter 7 Information on Least Restrictive Environment

Chapter 8 Information on Discipline of Students with Disabilities

Chapter 9 Information on Inter-Agency Responsibility for Related Services (AB 3632/882)

Chapter 10 Information on Vocational Education

Chapter 11 Information on Preschool Education Services

Chapter 12 Information on Early Intervention Services

NOTE: The text in each chapter refers to specific questions in other chapters by using the titles shown above.


SPECIAL EDUCATION

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Chapter 7

Information on Least Restrictive Environment

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Question

1. What does least restrictive environment (LRE) mean?

2. What do the terms "mainstreaming", "integration", "full inclusion" and "reverse mainstreaming" mean?

3. What are the major legislative and judicial provisions of law underlying the least restrictive environment requirement?

4. What factors may be important in determining whether my child is being educated to the maximum extent appropriate with her nondisabled peers?

5. Does the district have to provide aids and services to assist my child's integration? What if the district says that providing those aids and services is too expensive?

6. The district told me that my child may not be integrated because he cannot benefit academically from regular class instruction. Is this true?

7. Must the determination of whether my child would be too disruptive in the classroom be made in light of the possibility of supplementary aids and services to address my child's behavior?

8. What sorts of things may I ask for in the way of supplementary aids and services to assist my child in the regular classroom?

9. If my child is not placed in a regular classroom, does the district have any least restrictive environment obligations with regard to my child's education?

10. Are there any factors which the district may not consider in determining what the least restrictive educational environment for my child would be?

11. If my child cannot benefit from the regular academic program, can he participate in other school programs?

12. When I develop my child's IEP, how can I include services and placement in the least restrictive environment? How can the IEP team write this specifically?

13. What can be done in the IEP document to better ensure both an inclusive regular class placement and an appropriate program for my child?

14. How can I extend integration outside the school grounds and into the community?

15. What if the only educational placement my school district has available for my child is a special center for students with disabilities operated by the county?

16. What must school districts do to ensure that programs in the least restrictive environment are available to meet the needs of all students?

17. Can the nature or severity of my child's disability be used to justify a segregated educational setting?

18. Does "least restrictive environment" apply to students in public institutions, residential or non-public school placements?

19. Does regular education staff have to cooperate in providing my child with integration, full inclusion and mainstreaming opportunities?

20. Can the lack of a willing regular education teacher prevent my child from being educated in a regular classroom?

21. If I think my child's right to an education in the least restrictive environment is being denied, what can I do?

22. Can a hearing officer order a school district to start a new classroom to ensure placement in the least restrictive environment?

23. How can I ensure that my district or county is moving toward an effective model of integrated services for all students with disabilities?

24. What if my school district tells me that my child can only get related services if she attends school on a segregated site?

25. I think my child could be in regular classes at least part of the day if she could be in the resource class the rest of the day. The school district says that the maximum time my child can be in a resource class is 50 percent of the school day. Is that true?

26. The school district says it will lose money if it places my child in a regular class more than half of the school day instead of in a special class. Is that true? What can the district do to avoid this result?

27. My school district tells me it does not have the money to pay for the supplementary aids and services that are needed to serve my child appropriately in a regular classroom or other regular environments, is this true?

28. What can I do to help make sure the supplementary aids and services my child needs in order to be appropriately served in regular education classrooms or other environments are provided?

29. Must I write a letter requesting allocation of funds for supplementary aids and services in order to be entitled to them?

30. I was not aware of the SELPA budget plan development process or the time lines. Will it do any good to request an allocation for supplementary aids and services for my child after the SELPA budget plan has been approved and the budget year has begun?

31. My child is preschool age. Do the least restrictive environment requirements also apply to my child and what if my district does not offer any preschool for children without disabilities, how will my child be able to integrate with any nondisabled children?

32. Do the recent amendments to the federal law have any impact on the school district's duty to educate my child in the least restrictive environment?

33. Appendix I - Indicators of Fully Inclusive Programs for Students with Disabilities


SPECIAL EDUCATION

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Chapter 7

Information on Least Restrictive Environment

1. What does least restrictive environment (LRE) mean?

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is the requirement in federal law that children with disabilities receive their education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with nondisabled peers.

2. What do the terms "mainstreaming", "integration", "full inclusion" and "reverse mainstreaming" mean?

Mainstreaming refers to placement of a student with disabilities into ongoing activities of regular classrooms so that the student receives education with nondisabled peers -- even if special education staff must provide supplementary resource services.

Integration includes (1) mainstreaming into regular classes and (2) access to, inclusion in, and participation in the activities of the total school environment. Integration combines placement in public schools with ongoing structured and non-structured opportunities to interact with nondisabled, age-appropriate peers. A student with severe disabilities should be able to participate in many general school activities -- such as lunch, assemblies, clubs, dances or recess. The student should also be able to participate in selected activities in regular classes -- such as art, music, or computers. The student should also be able to participate in regular academic subjects in regular classes if appropriate curriculum modifications are made and adequate support is provided. The student should be able to use the same facilities as nondisabled students -- including hallways, rest rooms, libraries, cafeterias and gymnasiums.

"Integration" can refer to integration of a special education student into a regular education classroom in the same sense as in "mainstreaming." However, "integration" also refers to placement of a student in special education classes located on integrated campuses (that is, campuses that have both special and regular education classes). An "integrated" placement includes systematic efforts to maximize interaction between the student with disabilities and nondisabled peers.

Full inclusion refers to the total integration of a student with disabilities into the regular education program -- with special support. In full inclusion the student's primary placement is in the regular education class. The student has no additional assignment to any special class for children with disabilities. Thus, the student with disabilities is actually a member of the regular education class. The student is not being integrated or mainstreamed into the regular education class from a special day class. The student need not be in the class 100% of the time, but can leave the class to receive supplementary services such as speech or physical therapy. For a proposed list of characteristics of a "Full Inclusion" approach to integrated special education programming, see Appendix I.

Reverse mainstreaming refers to the practice of giving a student who is placed at a segregated school site or in a segregated classroom, or who resides in and attends school at a state hospital, opportunities to interact with nondisabled children. It brings nondisabled children to a segregated site or to state hospital classrooms for periods of time to work with or tutor children with disabilities. School districts should not attempt to fulfill the LRE mandate by using reverse mainstreaming exclusively. They should make systematic efforts to get special education students out of special classrooms and into the school's integrated environments. Reverse mainstreaming alone is an artificial means of integration. The IEP team should consider placements that encourage more natural interaction with nondisabled peers.

Special and regular educators must make innovative and systematic efforts to promote positive interactions between students with disabilities (both severely disabled and learning disabled) and their nondisabled peers.

3. What are the major legislative and judicial provisions of law underlying the least restrictive environment requirement?

Federal law provides that each local education agency must ensure that:

... to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. [34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Sec. 300.550(b)(1)&(2); 20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Sec. 1412(a)(5)(A); California Education Code (Cal. Ed. Code) Sec. 56364.]

In addition to the requirement quoted above, Congress has recognized that a state's method of funding special education services can sometimes encourage school districts to place children in specialized settings because of the potential to receive more money. Because of this danger, Congress now requires states to develop policies and procedures to assure that their funding systems, if based on type of setting, do not violate the requirements of education in the least restrictive environment. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1412(a)(5)(B).]

In its 1997 amendments to the federal special education laws, Congress has specifically recognized the importance and benefits of education of special education students in regular classes and environments. See 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1400(c)(5)(A)&(D). Beginning in July of 1998, Congress requires that IEPs include a statement describing how the child's disability affects his/her involvement and progress in the general curriculum and a statement of goals and objectives that is related to enabling the child to be involved and progress in the general curriculum. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)&(ii).] The statement of services in the IEP must also include a statement of the supplemental aids and services that will be provided for the child and a statement of the program modifications and supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child to be involved and progress in the general curriculum and to participate in extracurricular and nonacademic activities beginning in July of 1998. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(iii).]

State law provides that:

"Individuals with exceptional needs [shall be] offered special assistance programs that promote maximum interaction with the general school population in a manner which is appropriate to the needs of both." [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56001(g).]

For students not yet receiving special education, but for whom special education eligibility is being considered, state law provides that:

"A pupil shall be referred for special educational instruction and services only after the resources of the regular education program have been considered and, where appropriate, utilized." [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56303.]

The LRE regulations of federal law, Title 34, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 300.552(c), (d), provide:

"Unless the IEP [individualized education program] of a child with a disability requires some other arrangement, the child is educated in the school that he or she would attend if non disabled; [and] [i]n selecting the least restrictive environment, consideration is given to any potential harmful effect on the child or on the quality of services that he or she needs."

The Comments section following the federal LRE regulations contains this language:

"... it should be stressed that, where a handicapped child is so disruptive in a regular classroom that the education of other students is significantly impaired, the needs of the handicapped child cannot be met in that environment. Therefore regular placement would not be appropriate to his or her needs."

Numerous federal courts have issued decisions on the issue of special education in the least restrictive environment. For the most part, these courts have encouraged integrated education and have established a solid trend in this direction.

There is "a presumption that, among the alternative programs of education and training required by statute to be available, placement in a regular public school class is preferable to placement in a special public school class." [P.A.R.C. v. Pennsylvania.]

The court adopted "a presumption that among the alternative programs of education, placement in a regular public school class with appropriate ancillary services is preferable to placement in a special school class." [Mills v. Board of Education.]

The U.S. Supreme Court has stated: "The Act requires participating states to educate handicapped children with nonhandicapped children whenever possible." [Board of Education v. Rowley.]

In California, the federal appeals court has stated that the: "Congressional preference for educating handicapped children in classrooms with their peers is made unmistakably clear." [Dept. of Educ., State of Hawaii v. Katherine D.]

Denying access to a regular public school classroom without a compelling education justification constitutes discrimination. [Tokarcik v. Forest Hills School District.]

Federal special education law "requires school systems to supplement and realign their resources to move beyond those systems, structures and practices which tend to result in unnecessary segregation of children with disabilities." [Oberti v. Board of Education.]

The courts, including the federal courts in California, have established that the burden is on the school district to prove that a student cannot be educated successfully in the regular classroom.

"[T]he District has not justified, to the satisfaction of this reviewing court, its decision to exclude [the student] from a regular classroom." [Mavis v. Sobol.]

"[The Act's strong presumption in favor of mainstreaming...would be turned on its head if parents had to prove that their child was worthy of being included, rather than the school district having to justify a decision to exclude the child from the regular classroom. [Oberti v. Board of Education.]

"The statutory presumption in favor of mainstreaming has been construed as imposing a burden on the school district to prove that a child cannot be mainstreamed. [Sacramento City Unified School District v. Holland.]

4. What factors may be important in determining whether my child is being educated to the maximum extent appropriate with her nondisabled peers?

In the recent case of Sacramento City Unified School District v. Holland, the court identified several factors which are critical in analyzing whether a school district is complying with the least restrictive environment mandate. These factors are:

(1) Educational benefits available to the student with a disability in a regular classroom, supplemented with appropriate aids and services, as compared with educational benefits of a special education classroom;

(2) Non-academic benefits of interaction with children who are not disabled;

(3) Effect on the teacher and the other children in the classroom of the presence of the student with disabilities in terms of disruptive behavior and/or undue consumption of the teacher's time;

(4) Cost of mainstreaming a student with disabilities in a regular education classroom as compared to the cost of placement of the student in a special education classroom.

5. Does the district have to provide aids and services to assist my child's integration? What if the district says that providing those aids and services is too expensive?

The district must provide supplementary aides and services to accommodate the special educational needs of students with disabilities in integrated environments. The court in Obertistated that a district must take meaningful steps to include children with disabilities in regular classrooms with supplementary aids and services.

In another appellate court opinion, Daniel R. v. El Paso Independent School District, the court said:

The [law] does not permit states to make mere token gestures to accommodate handicapped students; its requirement for modifying and supplementing regular education is broad.

Another federal appellate court opinion, Roncker v. Walter, contained the following statements on the LRE issue:

In a case where [a] segregated facility is considered [academically] superior, the court should determine whether the services which make the placement superior could be feasibly provided in a non-segregated setting. If they can, the placement in the segregated school would be inappropriate under the [law].

The Rocker court also noted that:

Cost is a proper factor to consider since excessive spending on one handicapped child deprives other handicapped children. Cost is no defense, however, if the school district has failed to use its funds to provide a proper continuum of alternative placements for handicapped children. The provision of such alternative placements benefits all handicapped children.

While the court in Holland decided that cost was a consideration in determining the appropriate placement for a child, it found that providing a part-time instructional aide and making academic curriculum modifications would not cost more than a special education placement.

As is obvious from a review of these authorities, the presumption in favor of maximum appropriate contact with nondisabled students is a strong one.

6. The district told me that my child may not be integrated because he cannot benefit academically from regular class instruction. Is this true?

No. The court in Holland noted that mainstreaming requires educating a student with disabilities in a regular classroom if the child can receive a satisfactory education there, even if it is not the best academic setting for the child. The court looked at whether the student's IEP goals and objectives could be met in the classroom with some curriculum modification, or by providing supplementary aids and services. The school district in Holland contended that a child should be found inappropriate for regular class placement if such placement would require significant modification of the regular curriculum for the child. The Court rejected this contention and found that special education pupils may require and be entitled to substantial curriculum modifications in order to facilitate their benefit from regular class placement. The Court stated that "modification of the curriculum for a handicapped child, even dramatic modification, has no significance in and of itself. The IDEA, in its provision for the IEP process, contemplates that the academic curriculum may be modified to accommodate the individual needs of handicapped children."

Another federal appellate court opinion, Oberti v. Board of Education of the Borough of Clementon School District, contained the following comments on academic benefit:

[IDEA] does not require states to offer the same educational experience to a child with disabilities as is generally provided for nondisabled children... To the contrary, states must address the unique needs of a disabled child, recognizing that child may benefit differently from education in the regular classroom than other students... In short, the fact that a child with disabilities will learn differently from his or her education within a regular classroom does not justify exclusion from that environment.

7. Must the determination of whether my child would be too disruptive in the classroom be made in light of the possibility of supplementary aids and services to address my child's behavior?

Yes. Before making the determination that a special education student would be so disruptive as to significantly impair the education of the other students, the district must ensure that consideration has been given to the full range of supplementary aids and services that could be provided to the student in the regular education environment to accommodate the unique needs of the special education student. [Questions and Answers on the Least Restrictive Environment Requirements of the IDEA, U.S. Department of Education, Office Of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, OSEP-95-9, 11/23/94, Q&A 9.] The Court in Sacramento City Unified School District v. Holland stated that "when evaluating the burden that would be created by placing a handicapped child in a regular education class, the school district must consider all reasonable means to minimize the demands on the teacher: A handicapped child who merely requires more teacher attention than most other children is not likely to be so disruptive as to significantly impair the education of other children. In weighing this factor, the school district must keep in mind its obligation to consider supplemental aids and services that could accommodate a handicapped child's need for additional attention. . . . This factor weighs against placing a handicapped child in regular education only if, after taking all reasonable steps to reduce the burden to the teacher, the other children in the class will still be deprived of their share of the teacher's attention. [Sacramento City Unified School District v. Holland.]

In response to contentions about negative effects of special education students on regular education students in regular classes, it should be noted that recent federally-funded research projects indicate that: (1) achievement test performance among students who were classmates of students with significant disabilities were equivalent or better than a comparison group (Salisbury, 1993); (2) students developed more positive attitudes toward peers with disabilities (Cal. Research Institute, 1992); and 3) self concept, social skills, and problem solving skills improved for all students in inclusive settings (Peck, Donaldson, & Pezzoli, 1990; Salisbury & Palombaro, 1993.). [Id.]

8. What sorts of things may I ask for in the way of supplementary aids and services to assist my child in the regular classroom?

The federal law defines supplementary aids and services very broadly as: "aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate..." [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1401(29).] There is no all-inclusive list of the supplemental aids and services which might be used to assist special education students in regular classes. However, the U.S. Department of Education in a recent advisory on LRE issues has stated that the IEP team should consider a range of supplementary aids and services in light on the student's abilities and needs. The determination of what supplementary aids and services are needs must be made on an individual basis. Some aids and services which have been successfully used include, but are not limited to, modifications to the regular class curriculum, assistance of an itinerant special education teacher, special education training for the regular teacher, use of computer-assisted devices, provision of note takers, and the use of a resource room. Any supplemental aids and services used must be described in the student's IEP. [Questions and Answers on the Least Restrictive Environment Requirements of the IDEA, U.S. Department of Education, Office Of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, OSEP-95-9, 11/23/94, Q&A 3 and 4.]

One federal appellate court described the provision regarding supplemental aids and services as follows: "[The federal special education] Act does not permit states to make mere token gestures to accommodate handicapped students; its requirement for modifying and supplementing regular education is broad." [Daniel R. v. El Paso Independent School District.]

9. If my child is not placed in a regular classroom, does the district have any least restrictive environment obligations with regard to my child's education?

Even though a student may not be placed in a regular class, the district must still take steps to maximize opportunities for the student to interact with nondisabled peers to the extent appropriate to the needs of the special education student. Where a placement other than a regular classroom is proposed by the district, it must provide written notice to the parents of the placement options that were considered and the reasons why those options were rejected. [34 C.F.R. 300.504-300.505; Questions and Answers on the Least Restrictive Environment Requirements of the IDEA, U.S. Department of Education, Office Of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, OSEP-95-9, 11/23/94, Q&A 7.] The IEP team must document its rationale for placement in other than the pupil's school and classroom in which the pupil would otherwise attend if the pupil were not handicapped, and the documentation shall indicate why the pupil's handicap prevents his or her needs from being met in a less restrictive environment even with the use of supplementary aids and services. [5 Cal. Code of Regulations Sec. 3042(b).]

10. Are there any factors which the district may not consider in determining what the least restrictive educational environment for my child would be?

The district may not make placement decisions based solely on factors such as the following: category of disability; severity of disability; configuration of delivery systems; availability of educational or related services; availability of space; or administrative convenience. [Questions and Answers on the Least Restrictive Environment Requirements of the IDEA, U.S. Department of Education, Office Of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, OSEP-95-9, 11/23/94, Q&A 8.]

11. If my child cannot benefit from the regular academic program, can he participate in other school programs?

Yes. The law is clear that students with disabilities have the right to participate in non-academic and extracurricular services and activities to the maximum extent appropriate to their needs. Further, school districts must provide these activities in a way that gives students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate. Such services and activities include lunch, recess, counseling services, athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs, and employment opportunities. [34 C.F.R. Secs. 300.306 and 300.553.]

12. When I develop my child's IEP, how can I include services and placement in the least restrictive environment? How can the IEP team write this specifically?

As mentioned in Question 4, academics are not the only measure of educational benefit, in light of the Holland case. A student with disabilities will have a stronger case for an integrated environment or full inclusion regular classroom placement if her IEP includes goals and objectives that relate, at least in part, to the curriculum in use in the desired placement. Such goals and objectives need not call for mastery of the subject matter or even for completion of every task or activity. An appropriately accommodating goal and objective for a student with disabilities might call for learning only a portion or the first few steps of a skill that nondisabled students might go on to complete. The important factor in analyzing the appropriateness of that placement for the student with disabilities may be the fact that she is participating to some degree in the activities of the surrounding classroom. Objectives that require integrated activities are another means of ensuring integration. Such a goal might read: "Sandra will participate in a team sport with nondisabled peers three times per week for 45 minutes per activity." Including such goals assures your child of regular contact with nondisabled children.

Holland also stressed the importance of non-academic benefits derived from a regular education classroom placement for students with disabilities. Because of the importance the court in Holland gave to non-academic benefits, the IEP should also include information and goals and objectives related to the non-academic benefits of an integrated placement. Such benefits for a student with a disability may include language and behavioral models; improved self-esteem and increased motivation for learning; or improved social skills.

If possible, you should meet with your child's teacher before the IEP meeting or annual review. Many teachers regularly plan such meetings with their students' parents or guardians. At the meeting, you and the teacher will identify your priorities for objectives, discuss options for integration and/or mainstreaming, and reach a consensus regarding educational priorities. This may help you state your priorities at the IEP meeting itself, and is a positive way of developing goals and objectives.

State law specifically requires that "[the IEP team shall document its rationale for placement in other than the pupil's school and classroom in which the pupil would otherwise attend if the pupil were not handicapped. The documentation shall indicate why the pupil's handicap prevents his or her needs from being met in a less restrictive environment even with the use of supplementary aids and services." [Title 5, Cal. Code of Regs. Sec. 3042(b).]

Federal law requires that the IEP include a statement of the extent to which the student will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in extracurricular and nonacademic activities. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(iv).] State law specifically requires that the IEP include the extent to which the child will be able to participate in regular education programs. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56345(a)(4).] You can document this in the IEP in a number of ways. Some school districts indicate the percentage of time in regular education classes (for example, participation in regular education 30% of the school day). It is preferable, however, to list specific classes (such as regular education, art, music, and computers) or specific activities (such as assembly, lunch, recess, and circle time with nondisabled peers). In addition, it may be appropriate for your child to participate in a special friend or buddy system. A special friend or buddy is a nondisabled peer, who meets with your child in or outside the classroom for certain activities. The goal of the special friend or buddy system is to foster interaction and friendship. You should also document this type of system in your child's IEP.

In terms of integration, you may wish to include contact with regular education peers as part of specific objectives. This would be a component of the conditions or setting described in the objective. For example:

(1) John will use the sign for "hello" to greet nondisabled peers at lunch and on the playground each day;

(2) Denise will engage in structured games with a nondisabled peer tutor from another class three times per week during leisure periods after lunch;

(3) Anne-Marie will begin a self-feeding program by scooping her food at lunch, in the presence of a nondisabled "peer buddy."

Integration can and should be built into objectives across areas of skill (communication, mobility, social) and domain(vocational, leisure, domestic, community). As noted above, contact with nondisabled and less severely disabled students in school may occur during periods such as community skill instruction, food preparation and lunch periods, vocational skill training, etc. See Question 9 below.

In terms of mainstreaming or full inclusion, students who can participate in regular programming or regular classes may require modifications, supplementary aides or services within that regular class in order to learn. Such modifications may include the use of a tape recorder, oral testing, curriculum adaptations, special seating, an instructional aide, etc. Any modifications or services must be specifically written into your child's IEP. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 48.]

The IEP document should specifically describe placement in the LRE. This can be written in the placement section, in the notes section or in an addendum attached to the IEP. Some examples of placement statements are:

(1) Placement in a special day class (SDC) on an age-appropriate regular school site with daily opportunities for integration and mainstreaming;

(2) Placement in fully mainstreamed model kindergarten program that is team taught by special and regular education teachers;

(3) Placement in a resource specialist program (RSP) for 30% of the school day. Mainstreamed for social studies, math, computers and all non-academic classes with front row seating and oral testing in all classes;

(4) Placement at Rose Elementary School SDC with mainstreaming aide for music, art, homeroom and lunch;

(5) Placement in SDC at a regular senior high school site with integrated and community-based programming as set out in the IEP; or

(6) Full inclusion placement in a regular education first grade classroom with a full-time instructional aide.

See also Question 13 below.

13. What can be done in the IEP document to better ensure both an inclusive regular class placement and an appropriate program for my child?

A well-written and effective IEP for a child who is fully included is one which incorporates three basic principles. First, IEP goals and objectives must address the educational deficits of the child. Second, if necessary, the educational activities and curriculum used to achieve those goals and objectives must be modified so that they are accessible to the child. Third, if educational activities and curriculum are modified to be accessible to the child and to address the child's goals and objectives, the activities and curriculum must remain related to the activities and curriculum of the classroom at all times. In short, a child's IEP should be integrated into the instruction, activities and schedule of the classroom in which the child is placed.

For example, a child with a disability may not be skilled at writing activities and, therefore, has IEP goals and objectives to address this deficit. If the rest of the class is keeping a daily journal as part of their learning activities, a child with a disability could participate in this activity by words being dotted in by a teacher or peer for the child to trace over, or he/she could use cut-out letters to sequence for a single-word or short title or statement coupled with an illustration or a cut-out picture. Longer narratives could be dictated for another person to write down or a tape-recorder might be used. A computer keyboard could also assist with identifying and sequencing letters. In this way, IEP goals for written and spoken language and fine motor skills could be addressed in the same activity.

For math, for example, manipulatives could be used for counting and adding activities rather than numbers on paper. Counting could also be emphasized in other non-math activities, such as counting out materials to be passed out to each student for an art activity or in counting the students in the class for daily attendance. Math lessons could be limited to less problems of the same difficulty or all the problems of a lesser difficulty.

This kind of programming requires skill, creativity and knowledge of both curriculum and students with disabilities. A regular or special education teacher on his or her own may not have the skills necessary to incorporate a special education IEP into a regular education classroom. It may require the use of an inclusion specialist and the collaboration of regular and special education personnel.

14. How can I extend integration outside the school grounds and into the community?

An important aspect of education for a student with severe disabilities is how to function appropriately in the community. IEP goals should address integration of students with disabilities in the real world environments they will have to use as adults. These include recreation, community, and vocational environments. Skills that will facilitate your child's acceptance (such as social or communication skills) should be incorporated into the educational objectives. If this type of programming begins during the school years, successful integration as an adult is much easier to achieve.

In order to accomplish the above, parents and teachers need to first inventory possible activities in which the student could participate in the local community. Some suggestions are:

Boy/Girl Scouts, Boys/Girls clubs, local weight lifting gym, local Jazzercize classes, local parks, playgrounds, parks and recreation programs, local library, movie theaters, fast food restaurants, shopping centers.

From these ideas, parents and teachers can identify the skills a student needs to learn to participate in the community activity and build these into the IEP goals and objectives. For example:

(1) Rebecca will learn to shop for groceries from a picture list, select items from the shelves, give money and receive change as measured by teacher observation three times per week;

(2) Given a community work site at Pizza Hut, Kevin will clear and wipe tables and sweep floors up to competitive standards as measured by teacher and employer observation, for one hour two times per week;

(3) When at a fast food restaurant, Ryan will order food and appropriately thank server 80% of the time as measured by teacher observation.

Peer tutors or buddies who attend the student's school can also help promote integration in the community. They may be encouraged to:

(1) Visit the student with disabilities' home;

(2) Invite the student with disabilities to visit their home; or

(3) Participate in one of the above activities or organizations with the student with disabilities.

15. What if the only educational placement my school district has available for my child is a special center for students with disabilities operated by the county?

School districts must provide students with disabilities with maximum opportunities to interact with nondisabled peers. The law requires school districts to provide a full continuum of alternative placements to ensure that students receive services in the LRE. The full continuum of alternative placements must include the following: regular class placement; regular class with resource or itinerant instructional services; regular class with special education related services; special classes or special schools (either of which often also involve the provision of related services); nonpublic schools; state schools for students with low incidence disabilities; and instruction in settings other than classrooms (such as in homes or hospitals). [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.551; Education Code Sec. 56361.] The school district must provide students with maximum appropriate opportunities to interact with nondisabled peers, which includes providing placements on regular school sites.

Federal and state policy specifically forbid selecting a placement in a segregated setting over placement on a regular school site if the placement decision is based on administrative factors and not on the student's needs. A school cannot use lack of appropriate placements as an excuse for denying students with disabilities their right to an education in the least restrictive environment. Although a school district can contract with the county to provide programs for students, the district cannot use this arrangement as an excuse to deny a student an education in the LRE. [Federal Policy Letter on LRE, Education for the Handicapped Law Reporter (EHLR) page 211:384, March 21, 1986; CDE, Office of Special Education, Policy Statement on LRE.]

16. What must school districts do to ensure that programs in the least restrictive environment are available to meet the needs of all students?

The IDEA now specifically allows federal special education funds provided to school districts to be used "for the costs of special education and related services and supplementary aids and services provided in a regular class or other education-related setting to a child with a disability in accordance with the IEP of the child, even if one or more nondisabled children benefit from such services."

In addition, the CDE has said:

To ensure that a full continuum of program options are available, all education agencies should review their current delivery systems to determine that:

(1) Program options in regular education environments are available at local neighborhood schools.

(2) Special education programs, to the maximum extent appropriate to student needs, are housed on regular school campuses and dispersed throughout the district.

(3) The physical location of the program facilitates social interaction with non-handicapped students.

(4) Individuals with exceptional needs have equal access to all regular education activities, programs, and facilities on the regular school site and participate in those activities as appropriate to their needs.

(5) Administrative policies and procedures encourage close cooperation of all school personnel to facilitate opportunities for social interaction between individuals with exceptional needs and non-handicapped individuals.

(6) Administrative policies and procedures allow individuals with exceptional needs maximum access to appropriate general education academic programs and school personnel are given necessary support to insure the student's success.

(7) Long-range plans and commitments for physical housing on regular school campuses are made in order to avoid frequent and disruptive program relocations.

(8) Through long-range commitments for physical housing on regular school campuses, individuals with exceptional needs are afforded opportunities to develop and maintain continuing relationships with non-handicapped peers. [CDE, Office of Special Education, Policy Statement on LRE.]

17. Can the nature or severity of my child's disability be used to justify a segregated educational setting?

All students with disabilities have the right to an education in the LRE based on their individual educational needs rather than the label describing their disabling condition. Just because your child is labeled "severely retarded" or "seriously emotionally disturbed" does not necessarily mean that contact with nondisabled students would not be appropriate.

According to the Holland case a district must take all reasonable steps (including provision of supplemental aids and services) to reduce the burden to the regular education teacher and the other children in the class before removing a child with a disability from the regular education classroom. The court in Holland said that merely requiring more attention than most children is not likely to impair the other children's education.

The law does recognize that the nature or severity of a child's disability may justify removal of a child from the regular class, particularly when the student disrupts other students. However, total removal from the regular education environment may not be warranted. The school district should still provide opportunities for interaction with nondisabled peers in extra-curricular or non-academic settings when appropriate. [34 C.F.R. Secs. 300.550(b)(1)(2) and 300.552.]

18. Does "least restrictive environment" apply to students in public institutions, residential or non-public school placements?

Yes. Even if your child needs to receive services at a public institution, a residential facility or a non-public school placement, appropriate opportunities for participation in regular education programs and activities must be made. Again, this determination is based on the student's individual needs as set forth in his IEP. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.553 Comment and Sec. 300.554; Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56850 and following.] Public Charter Schools are required to serve children with disabilities who are attending those schools in the same manner as students with disabilities in other public schools are served. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1413(a)(5).]

19. Does regular education staff have to cooperate in providing my child with integration, full inclusion and mainstreaming opportunities?

Special education law requires that the IEP document specify the supplementary aids and services necessary to ensure a student's participation in the regular education program. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(iii).] These supplementary aids and services might include, for example:

(1) Special seating arrangements;

(2) Modification of tests to accommodate the student's disability

(3) Curriculum modifications

(4) Instructional or health aides to accompany the student; and

(5) Adaptive equipment.

Such arrangements apply to any class in which the student might participate -- including physical education, art, music and vocational education. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 48.] The IEP document is binding on the school district. Therefore, both special and regular education personnel must follow its provisions.

Beginning in July of 1998, the IEP team must include at least one regular education teacher of the child, if the child is or may be participating in regular education. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(B)(ii).] The regular education teacher must, to the extent appropriate, participate in the development of the IEP, including the determination of appropriate positive behavior interventions and strategies and the determination of supplementary aids and services, program modifications, and support for school personnel in providing the supplementary aids and services and program modifications. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(3)(C).] The regular education teacher must also participate in the review and any revision of the IEP of the student. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(4)(B).] Also beginning in July of 1998, the school district must be represented at every IEP meeting by a school official who is knowledgeable about the general curriculum and about the availability of resources of the local educational agency. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(B)(iv).]

The best way to ensure cooperation between the regular and special education programs is to make sure that adequate training and support are available to the regular education staff regarding the needs of your child. You can accomplish part of this through the IEP planning process. You should insist that your child's regular education teacher(s) also attend her IEP meetings together with any special education teacher(s) who will be working with your child. Where no regular education teacher does attend, it is important that either you (the parent) or the special education teacher relay the information covered at the IEP meeting to the regular education staff. The school district is responsible for (1) giving a copy of your child's IEP to her regular education teachers or informing them of its contents and (2) ensuring that the special education teacher or other appropriate support person is available to consult with the regular education teacher. [34 C.F.R. Part 300, App. C, No. 16.]

In addition, CDE and the local school districts have general responsibility to ensure that both regular and special education personnel are adequately prepared to provide instruction to special education students. Specifically, school districts must provide in-service training to regular and special education teachers who serve special education students about those students' needs. This program should include information on the latest educational practices. Parents of special education students should provide input into its development. [Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56001(o), 56240-43; 34 C.F.R. Secs. 300.380, 300.382.]

20. Can the lack of a willing regular education teacher prevent my child from being educated in a regular classroom?

No. The lack of adequate personnel or resources does not relieve school districts of their obligation to educate a child in the regular classroom in accordance with his IEP. Placement of a student in a particular regular class based on the competencies of the teacher is permitted. The district has an affirmative responsibility to ensure sufficient numbers of regular education teachers who are qualified, with needed aids and supports, to provide services to students with disabilities in regular educational environments. [Questions and Answers on the Least Restrictive Environment Requirements of the IDEA, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, OSEP-95-9, 11/23/94, Question 6.]

21. If I think my child's right to an education in the least restrictive environment is being denied, what can I do?

If your child's IEP calls for a specific integrated placement or specific amounts of integration activities, and the school district is not following the IEP, you can file a compliance complaint with the CDE and the federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR). If the school refuses to put integrated services or activities which you believe are appropriate into the IEP, you can ask for a fair hearing. See Chapter 6, Information on Due Process Hearings/Compliance Complaints.

22. Can a hearing officer order a school district to start a new classroom to ensure placement in the least restrictive environment?

A hearing officer must determine which type of placement is appropriate for a student with disabilities based on evidence presented at the hearing. A hearing officer is not authorized or required to limit her decision to available classrooms or personnel. If the evidence shows that a special day class on a regular school site is the LRE for your child, the hearing officer must order that type of placement. A school district must then make those services available. [California State Policy on the Authority of the Office of Administrative Hearings Regarding the Least Restrictive Environment; Federal Policy Letter on LRE, EHLR 211.384 (March 21, 1986).]

23. How can I ensure that my district or county is moving toward an effective model of integrated services for all students with disabilities?

If your school system is not yet fully integrated, or is just beginning to consider integrated or full inclusion options for its students with disabilities, you can take several actions. For example, you can approach your district's Community Advisory Committee/Council on Special Education (CAC). CAC's are state-mandated committees of parents, district and agency personnel which are present in every school system. [Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 56190-56194.] Ask your CAC how the district's local Special Education Plan addresses integration, what options are currently available, how the CAC plans to participate in and/or monitor integration planning, etc. The CAC may want to arrange for informational presentations from neighboring districts, parent or university groups involved with parallel integration programs. They might also want to schedule a session with their own administration regarding the local plan. Several parent groups and CACs in California have begun district-wide Integration Task Forces composed of parents, CAC members, teachers, related service personnel, regular and special education administrators, interested disabled and nondisabled community members, regional center, advocacy group representatives, etc. These task forces have developed cooperative planning efforts with the goal of effective integration.

At the same time, parents and teachers have helped their district evaluate potential school sites for future integration. They have begun IEP development to ensure integration. Finally, some districts/counties have developed Board of Education policies on integration, full inclusion and mainstreaming at the request of their CAC and/or school administration. A board policy and/or resolution can be highly effective in developing an integration process.

Integration requires careful planning and structure, not a "dump and hope" approach, to be effective for all students. A cooperative planning group or task force representing all constituencies is essential.

If your district will not cooperate in developing integration services, or refuses to write integration language into your child's IEP, you may use the compliance complaint or due process procedures set up through state and federal law. See Chapter 6, Information on Due Process Hearings/Compliance Complaints.

Several pilot projects have recently begun in California to foster more integrated educational opportunities for special education students.

The PEERS Outreach Project (Providing Education for Everyone in Regular Schools) assists school districts in creating fully inclusive educational options. PEERS Outreach is under the direction of CDE and is providing technical assistance to eight school district over the course of a three year period. Each district will develop technical assistance centers, school sites demonstrating inclusive education so that others can be trained in inclusive strategies. The program has two regional coordinators:

Ann Halvorsen - (510) 885-3087

Tom Neary - (916) 228-2376

Districts that have received assistance in establishing inclusive options are: Pierce Joint Unified School District, Davis Joint Unified School District, Napa Valley Unified School District, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District, Dry Creek Elementary School District, Merced Union High School District, San Francisco Unified School District, and Berkeley Unified School District.

24. What if my school district tells me that my child can only get related services if she attends school on a segregated site?

The school district cannot use location or availability of related services to justify placement on a segregated site. The district is responsible for providing necessary related services appropriate for the individual student in the least restrictive environment. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.552 and comment.]

CDE states:

"The determination of appropriate program placement, related services needed, and curriculum options to be offered is made by the IEP team based upon the unique needs of the handicapped student rather than the label describing the handicapping condition or the availability of programs." [CDE, Office of Special Education, Policy Statement on LRE.]

25. I think my child could be in regular classes at least part of the day if she could be in the resource class the rest of the day. The school district says that the maximum time my child can be in a resource class is 50 percent of the school day. Is that true?

There is a provision in state law limiting the amount of time a child can be enrolled in a resource class to 50% of a school day -- without prior approval from the Superintendent of Public Instruction. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56362(e).] Many school districts do not inform parents that they might obtain the Superintendent's prior approval for placement in a regular class less than 50% of the time and in a resource class for more than 50% day -- if this extra resource time is appropriate and least restrictive for the student. Usually, students for whom half-day regular class placement would not be appropriate are automatically placed in a special day class. As a result, these students do not receive any significant degree of integrated education. If you believe your child could benefit from the regular class environment, or should have the services of a resource teacher more than half of the school day, you should ask the IEP team to pursue approval from the Superintendent of Public Instruction pursuant to Education Code Sec. 56362(e).

26. The school district says it will lose money if it places my child in a regular class more than half of the school day instead of in a special class. Is that true? What can the district do to avoid this result?

For a school district to receive funding at the level for a special day class student, that student must be in the special day class at least 50% of the day. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56364.] When a school district tries to provide appropriate education, with supplementary aids and services, in a regular class more that 50% of the day, to a student who would otherwise be in a special class, the district does not receive the higher level of funding it would receive if the student were in a special class for that time. The district may need the higher funding level, however, to support the child appropriately in the regular class.

Fortunately, the district can obtain a waiver of the requirement that a student be in the special class a majority of the time. Under Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56101, a district can petition the State Board of Education for a waiver so that it can receive the higher level of funding. Inclusion of students who would otherwise be in special classes in regular classes, where appropriate, cannot depend on obtaining one of these waivers, however. If the district says that money for the necessary supports to serve your child appropriately in regular class is not available unless your child spends more than 50% of the day in special class, you should remind the district of the waiver procedure under Section 56101. You might also remind the district that lack of money is no excuse for not including your child, with appropriate supports, in regular class.

27. My school district tells me it does not have the money to pay for the supplementary aids and services that are needed to serve my child appropriately in a regular classroom or other regular environments, is this true?

Even though a school district may say it does not have the money to pay for supplementary aids and services in regular environments, what may actually be happening is that the district does not have a convenient method under the special education funding system to pay for the supplementary aids and services. In any case, insufficient funds to pay for a needed service is not a legally sufficient justification for refusing to provide them, except, perhaps, where the costs would significantly impact the education of other children in the district. (See Q&A 5.)

28. What can I do to help make sure the supplementary aids and services my child needs in order to be appropriately served in regular education classrooms or other environments are provided?

Both federal and state law require that school districts consider whether each special education student can be educated satisfactorily in a regular classroom with supplementary aids and services before another environment is considered. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1412(a)(5); Education Code Sec. 56364.] Therefore, you should not have to do anything to help make sure that the necessary funds for supplementary aids and services are allocated and available to your local school district for your child. However, because of recent amendments to the California Education Code, you may wish to facilitate the process of seeing to it that the necessary funds are allocated in advance.

Beginning in January of 1998, the California Education Code requires each special education local plan area (SELPA)(1)

to submit a plan to the State Superintendent each year. The plan must contain a budget which is adopted by the SELPA at a public hearing. Notice of the hearing must be posted in each school in the SELPA at least 15 days before the hearing. The budget must separately identify the allocation for supplemental aids and services to meet the individual needs of pupils placed in regular education classrooms and environments. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56205.]

If you anticipate that your child will be placed in a regular classroom or other regular environment wherein he/she will need certain supplemental aids and services in order to be appropriately served, you should write to the SELPA Director for your school district and inform him/her of the intention to have your child in a regular environment, inform him/her of the supplementary aids or services you believe will be necessary for your child in that environment, and request, pursuant to California Education Code Sec. 56205(f)(5), that he/she allocate, in the SELPA plan budget, the necessary funds for the supplemental aids and services you have described. Send a copy of your letter to your local school district special education administrator. Keep a copy of your letter for your records. Notifying your SELPA to budget for the supplementary aids and services needed by your child in a regular educational environment does not assure that your child will be placed in such an environment if the district can show that such a placement would be inappropriate under the analysis described earlier in this chapter.

29. Must I write a letter requesting allocation of funds for supplementary aids and services in order to be entitled to them?

No. The requirement of a budget allocation for supplementary aids and services in every annual SELPA budget plan places no new obligation on parents to ask to be included in it and failure to request an allocation for supplementary aids and services in advance does not preclude anyone from having these services provided. However, putting your SELPA on notice of the potential need for this allocation should eliminate the excuse by the SELPA that it did not know, when it was formulating its budget, that such funds would be needed. Our recommendation for such a written request is made only in an effort to remove insufficient funds from the list of reasons a school district may give parents at an IEP meeting for its refusal to integrate their child.

30. I was not aware of the SELPA budget plan development process or the time lines. Will it do any good to request an allocation for supplementary aids and services for my child after the SELPA budget plan has been approved and the budget year has begun?

Yes. The annual budget allocation plan may be revised during any fiscal year. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56205(f).] Any time you believe a supplementary aid or service is needed for your child in a regular educational environment, you may request it and the necessary funds to pay for the service should be available or should be made available.

31. My child is preschool age. Do the least restrictive environment requirements also apply to my child and what if my district does not offer any preschool for children without disabilities, how will my child be able to integrate with any nondisabled children?

The least restrictive environment requirements apply to preschool age special education pupils also. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.552, Note.] School districts that do not operate preschool programs have at least 3 options for meeting this requirement for their preschoolers in special education. These school districts can make a placement in a Head start program, they can use and pay for a private preschool, or they can locate special education preschool classes on regular elementary school campuses and facilitate integration with nondisabled students on those campuses.

32. Do the recent amendments to the federal law have any impact on the school district's duty to educate my child in the least restrictive environment?

Most importantly, Congress recognized that funding systems in the states are often geared toward the funding of special classes and settings on the assumption that specialized settings are where special education students most often be served. In the June 1997 amendments, Congress provided that if a state uses a funding system which is based on the type of setting in which a child is served, the funding system must not result in placements which violate the requirement of placement in the least restrictive appropriate environment. If a state does not have policies and procedures in place to assure that the least restrictive environment requirement is not violated by the way its funding system works, the state must assure the federal government that it will change its funding system as soon as possible. [20 U.S.C. Section 1412(a)(5).]

In addition, Congress made several important findings about the value and benefits of inclusive and integrated education for special education pupils.

Over 20 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access in the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible [and by] providing appropriate special education and related services and aids and supports in the regular classroom to such children, whenever appropriate[.]

[20 U.S.C. Section 1400(c)(5)(A)&(D).]

Congress also defined the term "supplementary aids and services" for purposes of describing what kinds of things might be provided by the school district to a special education pupil in a regular classroom.

The term 'supplementary aids and services' means, aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate . . .

[20 U.S.C. Section 1401(29).]

Congress also provided that supplementary aids and services used to appropriately support a special education student in a regular class may benefit children without disabilities as well. [20 U.S.C. Section 1413(a)(4)(A).] For example, although such services must first be used to meet the needs of the special education student, the use of an instructional or behavioral aide in a classroom for a special education student may also benefit one or more nondisabled students in that class or another class.

Because the requirement may have been forgotten or ignored in some states, Congress reminded school districts that the parent must be part of any group that makes decisions about the educational placement of a child. [20 U.S.C. Section 1414(f).]

As is more fully discussed in Chapters 6 and 8 of this manual, Congress reminded school districts that even if a child's placement is changed to an interim alternative setting for disciplinary reasons, the interim setting must be one which allows the child to continue to participate in the general education curriculum. [20 U.S.C. Section 1415(k)(3)(B)(i).]


Appendix I - Indicators of Fully Inclusive Programs for Students with Disabilities

The following characteristics are indicators of fully inclusive programs for students with disabilities. They can serve as guidelines in planning for inclusion and also as a means for maintaining the integrity of the term, Inclusive or Supported Education.

1. Students are members of chronologically age-appropriate general education classrooms in their normal schools of attendance, or in magnet schools or schools of choice when these options exist for students without disabilities.

2. Students move with peers to subsequent grades in school.

3. No special class exists except as a place for enrichment activities for all students.

4. Disability type or severity of disability does not preclude involvement in full inclusion programs.

5. The special education and general education teachers collaborate to ensure:

a. the student's natural participation as a regular member of the class

b. the systematic instruction of the student's IEP objectives

c. the adaptation of core curriculum and/or materials to facilitate student participation and learning.

6. Effective instructional strategies (e.g., cooperative learning, activity based instruction, whole language) are supported and encouraged in the general education classroom.

7. The staff to student ratio for an itinerant special education teacher is equivalent to the special class ratio and aide support is at least the level it would be in a special class.

8. Supplemental instructional services (e.g. communication, mobility, adapted P.E.) are provided to students in classrooms and community settings through a transdisciplinary team approach.

9. Regularly scheduled collaborative planning meetings are held with general education staff, special education staff, parents and related-service staff in attendance as indicated, in order to support initial and ongoing program development and monitoring.

10. There is always a certificated employee (special education teacher, resource specialist or other) assigned to supervise and assist any classified staff (e.g., paraprofessional) working with specific students in general education classrooms.

11. Special education students who are fully included are considered a part of the total class count for class size purposes. In other words, even when a student is not counted for general education ADA, s/he is not an "extra" student above the contractual class size.

12. General ability awareness is provided to staff, students and parents at the school site through formal or informal means, on an individualized basis. This is most effective when ability awareness is incorporated with general education curriculum.

13. Plans exist for transition of students to next classes and schools of attendance in inclusive situations.

14. Districts and SELPAs obtain any necessary waivers of the Education Code to implement supported education.

15. Supported education efforts are coordinated with school restructuring at the district and site level.

In summary, all students are members of the general education classroom, with some students requiring varying levels of support from special education. Hence the term "Supported Education." This term, though synonymous with "Full Inclusion", is explicit in acknowledging the importance of providing support services within the regular classroom, when necessary, to ensure a quality educational program.

PEERS 1992

With appreciation to Dr. Wayne Sailor, "Special Education in the Restructured School" Remedial and Special Education, 12, 6 (1991).

[1992 DRAFT - Authors: Neary, T.; Halvorsen, A.; & Smithey, L., Inclusive Education, Sacramento PEERS Project.]


 Endnotes

1. A SELPA is a single large school district or collection of smaller school districts which is organized to coordinate provision of regionalized special education services.


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