Determining the most appropriate placement for a child is a two-step process:

1. Determine the child’s level of functioning and associated needs by requesting an evaluation or re-evaluation through the school or independent professional(s). This evaluation should include specific recommendations for supports, educational services and levels of treatments.
2. Prospective teacher(s), service provider(s) and school administrator(s) work with parents to develop a well-defined and thorough IEP, including a discussion of placement options.

Least Restrictive Environment

When selecting an appropriate placement for a child, parents and professionals need to understand the concept of “least restrictive environment” (LRE). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) sets up procedural guidelines to ensure a free appropriate education in the least restrictive environment, tailored to the child’s individual needs.

The law begins with the assumption that, to the maximum extent possible, children with disabilities should be educated with their non-disabled peers, with supplementary aides and services provided as necessary to enable them to succeed in that setting. Once the child’s needs are assessed and necessary services and supports are determined, the placement options should begin within general education or the inclusive classroom. Students with disabilities do not have to start in a more restrictive or separate class and “earn” the right to move to a less restrictive placement. If it is found that a general education classroom does not meet the child’s needs, even with support services, then other options may be pursued. These options may include, but are not limited to, special education classes, special schools or home instruction. Keep in mind that the student with a disability must benefit from the placement and should not be “dumped” in a classroom where he/she cannot receive an appropriate education.

Additionally, school safety concerns are addressed in IDEIA, and educational services cannot be withheld as a disciplinary remedy. While students with disabilities may be suspended for disciplinary concerns that would also apply to general education students, educational services must continue at all times, even when a student is expelled for behavior not associated with his/her disability.

See Education for more information about IDEIA and educational law.