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Feds: Least Restrictive Environment Applies To Transition Too


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By law, students with disabilities are supposed to be included in general education to the greatest extent possible. Now, federal officials say the same tenet of inclusion should apply to transition as well.

Informal guidance issued recently from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that the requirement in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, that students be placed in the “least restrictive environment” extends beyond the confines of the classroom.

Specifically, the concept should apply to work placements if such experiences are part of a student’s individualized education program, or IEP, officials at the Education Department said.

“Placement decisions, including those related to transition services (including work placements), must be based on these (least restrictive environment) principles and made by the IEP team,” wrote Melody Musgrove, director of the Office of Special Education Programs at the Department of Education. “The IDEA does not prohibit segregated employment, but the (least restrictive environment) provisions would apply equally to the employment portion of the student’s program and placement.”

The guidance from Musgrove comes in response to a series of questions from officials at Disability Rights Wisconsin, a federally-mandated legal advocacy service, regarding the responsibilities school districts have in administering transition plans for students with disabilities. News of Musgrove’s letter was first reported by Education Week.

Much like traditional requirements for least restrictive environment in the classroom, Musgrove said that schools must offer supports at job placements if such assistance will allow a student to be successful in an integrated environment.

“Removal of children with disabilities from the regular education environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily,” she wrote.

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Comments (9 Responses)

  1. KA101 says:

    Sounds good. Inclusion, even with supports, helps dismantle the social frameworks encouraging segregation (specifically, that those $OUTGROUP people couldn’t possibly work with $INGROUP because of $DIFFERENCE). It’s by no means an easy or painless process, and things that weren’t built in a day can’t be dismantled in a day, but the process isn’t going to accomplish itself.

    Let’s hope providers pick up on this–forcing them makes the process longer and harder.

  2. Stacy says:

    While this might look like a victory to some, the reality is that this does not change anything. The schools still have all the power to say what is appropriate and what is the LRE. Parents are supposed to be part of the “Team” but have no say against the school officials and if the parents disagree. The parent is forced to take the school to court and prove what the IEP team has chosen is not appropriate. The parents have to pay for Lawyers, experts and witnesses, while yes, “if” the parents win they may get some of the funds back to pay for the lawyer they still have to pay for the experts themselves. If they won, it also does not stop the school from stating there is new information and changing the students placement again. There for forcing the parents once again having to defend their child’s rights all over again. The laws need to change; it should be a basic human right to be educated in with General Education students. It is no different than this statement made by the US Supreme Courts so many years ago:

    “Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group…Any language in contrary to this finding is rejected. We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
    —Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

  3. Lynne Tamor says:

    It is really nice to see this statement. After inclusive education K-12, my son found himself in a totally segregated post-secondary program. Its job placements are all enclave style. We have partially withdrawn him from the program in order to build our own job experiences in integrated environments for him, but it’s very hard to do on our own and his Medicaid funder says the education system should be paying, so we’re stuck in a gap. I hope this will help.

  4. Mary Ann Dawedeit says:

    Work placements that focus on inclusion are so important to transitioning youth. As much as it is a cliche, my son has really enjoyed his paid employment at Giant. I think the article is talking about the transistion from school and what the future is after school.

  5. MW says:

    Parents don’t have to pay for lawyers if they go to the Legal Aid or LSC or Disability Law Center in that state. As long as the disability is directly related to the legal issue, and here it definitely is. Most states with more than 170,000 residents should have more than one such office.

  6. hdemic says:

    If the law states inclusion why are there still so many center schools where kids are forced to go. I’m not talking behaviral issues.
    mom of special needs young adult in west mich

  7. Artie Grassman says:

    The law actually states” to the extent APPROPRIATE”. Not ” to the extent possible! If u are deaf and only an interpreter can communicate with you directly or if all of your friendships remain superficial due to communication barriers, then u are further isolated being with your non-deaf peers – regardless of how well you are doing academically.

  8. Bernadette Komenda says:

    So,how does this apply to the new labor laws for students in transition?

  9. KSG says:

    My son is a seventh grader who has autism and PVL and is at about a second or third grade level. He has been in a general education classroom. This year I finally got the school to put him in a self contained classroom where he can learn at his level. My son self esteem is so low. I blame the school because for years I have asked for extra help for him. The Director of Special Education told me I was throwing in the towel on him by putting him in a self contained classroom because that takes him off of diploma track. I want too know how the school expects him to get his diploma when he is in 7th grade and at a 2nd or 3rd grade level? I really don’t feel like I’ve thrown in the towel on him. I feel like I’ve done the only thing I can so he can at least learn as much as possible before he is finished with school. When a child is at a 2nd or 3rd grade level how much do you really think they will learn in a regular 7th grade classroom ? I really don’t understand why children with special needs can’t get a decent education. I think every teacher should be required by law to have a degree in special education if they are going to teach children with special needs, and they should be required to attend yearly training in autism.

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