Describe about the Least Restrictive Environment, Summary of court cases and their outcomes and Proactive solutions for due process problems for Applying Knowledge of Special Education Law?
Least Restrictive Environment
The Federal government under the 20 U.S.C. 1400 et. Seq. introduced the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in order to design educational facilities for students with mental and physical disabilities. IDEA provides financial assistance to the state and the local educational institutions for providing free and proper public education (FAPE) to the thousands of disabled children (Flores, 2001). The process of IDEA is based on six major principles namely Individualized Education Program (IEP), Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), Measurable goals and appropriate evaluation, Zero reject and procedural safeguards.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 1973 was the first act to be introduced to prohibit discrimination against the disabled people and this act combined with IDEA provides financial assistance and protective guidelines against exclusion of disabled children from their educational facilities, unequal treatments at school, jobs and in the community. The IDEA act was passed in the year 1975 keeping in view of the civil rights of around 4 million disabled children in United States (O'Laughlin, n.d.). The major advantage that the IDEA provides is to arrange free and appropriate education for the disabled children in a least restrictive environment similar to the normal environment provided to the normal students.
The assignment here is based on the procedural assessment of the mainstream policy of the IDEA – Least Restrictive Environment (Flores, 2001). This policy adopted by IDEA provides that the educational institutes should educate the disabled children in regular classroom scenarios along with normal children. The IDEA generated this principle to strengthen the mental condition of the disabled children and make them connected to the society to the maximum possible extent.
Summary of court cases and their outcomes
The issue relating to availing the provision for LRE gave rise to a number of court cases in various countries. Following are the summaries of some of the notable cases and their outcomes.
Roncker v. Walter, 700 F2d. 1058 (6th Circuit Court 1993) (Rockner v. Walter, 1983)
Summary of the case
This case dealt with a nine-year-old male child who suffered from severe mental retardation and seizures. Constant monitoring of the child was required so that he may not harm himself as well as others. However, when the child was put in a non-restrictive normal school environment he was able to communicate socially with the non-disabled students. However, the Cincinnati School District suggested that segregated educational programs would be more effective for Roncker. The parents of the child availing the IDEA demanded regular classroom facility and LRE for their child and appealed to the court to make some changes to fit the child’s needs.
To determine the case the court established several concepts namely the definition of a segregated program, Advantages of segregated program over the mainstream programming and the extent of modification that can be provided in a regular school environment. Finally, the court passes the verdict in favor of the child and his parents by establishing a principle of Portability. The principle of Portability stated that the placement of the child would depend upon the IEP of the child. As per PL 94-142 of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act 1975 the court stated that some desirable services would be accommodated within the integrated school setting without hampering the normal setting procedures in order to provide a least restrictive environment for the child. This case passed a resolution of principle of portability which restricted the district schools from making placement decisions based on disability issues of the child rather than availing the IEP and the federal laws.
Oberti vs Board of Education of the Borough of Clementon School District 3rd Circuit Court 1993(Oberti vs Board of Education of the Borough of Clementon School District, 1993)
Summary of the case
This case focused on the placement issue of an 8-year-old boy Rafael Oberti who suffered from the Down syndrome. On evaluation of his mental condition, the placement team suggested to place him in a special education school that was far from his district. The parents of the child was not satisfied with the settings of the special school hence the placement team in the second session suggested to put the child in a local school in the morning and a special education class in the afternoon. Although the child showed slow progress however he encountered behavioral difficulties and negative behaviors from the teachers. In the third setting, the placement team decided to place Rafael in segregated school facility for the mentally retarded children. However the parents of the child protested to the decision and demanded for regular settings for the child under the LRE principle of IDEA.
The court ruled in support of the child and his parents stating that the educational institutes must consider the supplementary aids and services that can be given to the disabled child before segregating the child into special classrooms. The district court ordered the placement of the child in s special education class however the Federal court ruled the decision of the district court and ordered that as per the norms of the IDEA all districts schools should judge the “maximum extent appropriate” service that they can accommodate in the normal settings. The inclusion of the maximum extent appropriate efforts includes the child attending normal programs along with the non-disabled students like music, art, lunch activities and indoor activities. However, the Federal court proved that the district court had not successfully engaged Rafael into appropriate regular classroom benefits rather the child in the morning session was made to observe the behavior of the non-disabled students that did not involve the child interacting with the non-disabled peers socially. Hence, the court dismissed the decision of the district court. Moreover, the IEP experts opined that Rafael would be better in a regular classroom atmosphere and hence the school districts appeal was rejected. The final verdict of the Federal court stated that Rafael would be provided special education under the principles of least restrictive environment by accommodating certain required changes within the integrated school settings.
Sacramento City Unified School District vs. Holland (9th Circuit Court, 1994) (Sacramento City Unified Sch. Dist. V. Rachel H, 1994)
Summary of the case
The facts of the case were that the daughter was placed in one special education classroom for one half-time and other half-time in a regular classroom by the district court. The district court had stated that when the school district place students with any disability then the probable presumption is the mainstream. In this case, the parents challenged the decision of the district court and they insisted on placing their daughter in a regular full-time classroom. The daughter in question was a person with mental retardation and when test was conducted on her I.Q. level was 44. The decision of the court was that Rachel was ‘severely disabled’ for receiving any benefits for any full-time placement in any regular class. The 9th Circuit Court based its judgment on the four part test of balancing in order to decide whether the school was fulfilling the principles of IDEA. These four criteria are the benefit of education in order to place the child in the full time and regular education program, the benefits of the non-academic benefits of the placements, the effects on the child with regard to the behavior of the teacher and the other fellow students in any regular classroom, (in this regard the court noted the social as well as the communication skills along with her self confidence in any regular class) and the costs of the aids given as supplements and other services that is associated with the placements.
The outcome of the case was that the court held that the only element that can negatively affect the available services for the other children. During the Clinton administration, the Office of Special Education Programs had filed a brief on "friend of the court" with the Court of Appeals supporting the placement of the child in the general education department.
Daniel R.R. v State Board of Education , 874 F.2d 1036 (5th Circuit Court 1989)
Summary of the case
The fact of the case was that a handicapped boy and the parents urged that the local school had failed to comply in accordance with the Education of the Handicapped Act. They stated that when the school district refused to place the child in any classroom that is for the non handicapped students it is a violation of the act. On this issue the district court disagreed and after a proper review of the work, even the higher court affirmed this decision of the court.
The court stated that the regular education placement would be correct for any child having any disability when they obtain suitable education even when such education is not the paramount academic education given to the child. In this regard the benefits that are non-academic may be considered. The Court further stated that for mainstreaming academic achievement is not the only objective. When any handicapped child is integrated into any other non - handicapped environment it will be advantageous for all even when the child cannot achieve the require results academically. In order to determine whether the actions of the district court were according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Circuit Court carried out the two-pronged test. The primary questions that were to be answered were basically whether education in any regular classroom done using the supplemental aids and services would be adequate and whether the school had conventionalized the child to the proper degree.
In this regard the intention of the school for providing special education or whether the school intends to take out the child from the regular education should be kept in mind. With this regard the Court has assumed a number of factors that would help in all the stages of inquiry. However it must be remembered that all the factors cannot be considered in all cases and neither can one single factor be applicable in all the cases. Hence the analysis of the court needs to be more individualized and more fact specific that would help the court in analyzing the nature and severity of the handicapped condition of the child along with his capabilities and requirements and the response of the school for the needs of the child.
Greer vs. Rome City School District (11th Circuit Court, 1992) (Greer vs. Rome City School District, 1992)
Summary of the case
The fact of the case was that the father of Christy Greer had initiated this case under the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act of 1975. 20 U.S.C. under sections 1400-1484 and under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. His daughter was a nine year old child who was suffering from the Down’s syndrome. Under the said act this condition was considered as a handicap. The main issue in this case was whether the provisions of the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act was followed when the Rome City School District as well as the Rome City Board of Education took the decision that the student be placed in the special education class which was primarily made for the students who had similar conditions that were as the same as the child (Norlin, 2010). The child was then attending a traditional kindergarten class that was present in her neighborhood. The place where her parents were insisting to admit their child was another elementary school that was different from the kindergarten school.
The plaintiffs challenged the decision taken to place the child Christy in a separate special education class. This challenge was primarily made in order to attack the decision making process of the School system and to determine whether the proposed placement was legal.
The main driving force in the case was whether the child receives the "free appropriate public education" that she was supposed to receive in accordance with the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act of 1975 given under the section 1401(a)(18). In accordance to the Act, the child has the right to public education that has been specially figured according to her special needs (Norlin, 2010). This goal can be achieved by developing and implementing the educational program of the individual.
In this case, the court had held that prior to the school district considering whether a disabled child would be educated beyond the standard classroom methods, the school should primarily consider whether there are supplementary aids and services that would be available to the child in the standard classrooms and they would receive the satisfactory education. The parents stated that it was the school that determined that due to the severe impairment of the child it would be justified to put the child in a self contained classroom where special education was provided. The court in this regard argued that the expenses that would be required in the classroom would be extremely high (O'Laughlin, n.d.). The decision of the court was in support of the parents and it stated that the school did not make any efforts to change the kindergarten programs so that the child could be accommodated in the ordinary classroom. The court further stated that it was not possible for the district to serve the child since it would be of additional cost to them. The court stated that the officials in the school should in future share the placement issues with the parents of the child during the IEP meeting before any final decision regarding placement is made.
Procedural due process issues
The Congress had enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act in the year 1975. In this act they had included an entire system with regard to the procedural safeguards which was specially made for the protection of the rights of the children having disabilities and also their parents. After a number of reauthorizations this law later came to be known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This act had maintained the standards and also new safeguards were added (O'Laughlin, n.d.).
With regard to the procedural safeguards there are a number of issues that generally as to the service of notice for the relevant information to the parents, proper examination of the educational records and obtaining of educational evaluation for the child. In this regard the law states that proper examination of the records is to be done and a self-determining educational assessment of the child. Every parent has the right to a written notice when the school decides to modify or make changes with regard to the identification or placement or evaluation of the child. There are a number of methods to resolve the disputes. These include the process of mediation, a session for resolution and also hearings for due process. These procedural safeguards are generally legally binding and are printed mediation agreements with the clauses of confidentiality.
One very controversial factor with regard to the least restrictive environment is the cost required for determining the LRE with regard to whether the application is appropriate or not and what proper test is required to be applied in this case. A number of courts laid stress on the factor of cost and further state that this factor is not adequately strong for determining the LRE of the child. In the case of Rockner (Rockner v. Walter, 1983), the court had acknowledged the financial burden which the mainstreaming of the child may impose on the school. On the other hand the Fifth Circuit did not mention about the cost previously but in subsequent applications this factor was relevant. Also, in the case of Rachel H (Sacramento City Unified Sch. Dist. V. Rachel H, 1994) the Ninth Circuit considered the cost factor and most people do feel that the cost should be an important factor in LRE for the children with special needs.
Another relevant procedural issue was that appropriate placement for the preschoolers. This act states that the children with any special needs should be entitled to individualized education that is appropriate for the needs in accordance with the least restrictive environment. Nonetheless, in case of preschoolers there is an additional challenge since in most cases the public schools do not allow preschoolers with special needs. Hence special education with regard to the preschoolers and their attempt to get them general education is tough.
Proactive solutions for due process problems
There are a number of provisions in the act that are necessary for ensuring that the procedural due process is working smoothly. For instance section 615 (d) of the act states that the parents need to be given a copy of the procedural safeguards whenever there is any initial reference for any evaluation of notification or registration of any complaints. This would make the parents aware of the required changes. This act lays more emphasis on the proactive approach to those behaviors which tend to interfere in the learning for those children having disabilities whose behavior creates obstruction for their learning and others too. The team of IEP addresses the IEP of the child and uses positive behavioral intervention and such strategies in order to address the behavior. This has been given under the section 614(d)(3)(B)(i) of the Act. Primarily there are three main points which the school personnel is required to remember while they discuss the procedural safeguards. Firstly, the rights of the parents and the children need to be protected. Secondly, ensure that proper information has been provided and finally the process for resolving the disputes needs to be reviewed.
This legislation has initially helped to improve the level of education for the students with disabilities to a great extent. Nevertheless, it must be noted that no part of the legislation determines the least restrictive setting and the proper level for including the children in the general education classroom. Since this lack of authority is present there are a number of issues that is present in order to determine the least restrictive environment for the students with special education. Had there been Supreme Court rulings on this issue there would have been more clarity.
Crockett, J., & Kauffman, J. (2013). The Least Restrictive Environment. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
Daniel R.R. v State Board of Education, 874 F.2d 1036 (5th Circuit Court 1989).
Flores, N. (2001). The implementation of the least restrictive environment provision of the individuals with disabilities education act (IDEA) for secondary students with learning disabilities on Guam.
Greer vs. Rome City School District (11th Circuit Court 1992).
Norlin, J. (2010). Educating students with autism in the LRE. Horsham, Pa.: LRP Publications.
Oberti vs Board of Education of the Borough of Clementon School District (3rd Circuit Court 1993).
O'Laughlin, L. The least restrictive environment clause of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and institutional ableism.
Rockner v. Walter, 700 F.2d 1058, 1063 (1983).
Sacramento City Unified Sch. Dist. V. Rachel H, 14 F.3d 1398 (1994).