"Placement" and Least Restrictive Environment under the IDEA
What options are available if a school district is not implementing your child's IEP? Some parents find themselves in the unfortunate situation of having fought for their child's educational rights and obtained appropriate services for their child, only to have the school subsequently fail to implement those services.
If a teacher is not appropriately credentialed or qualified to be educating children with unique needs it can lead to a subsequent denial of a student's access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
One of the most critical steps to understanding your child's specific educational needs is obtaining appropriate assessments. Once your child has been appropriately assessed within all areas of need, both yourself and the IEP team will have a much better understanding of how to best maximize your child's learning potential. Therefore, it is important that all parents understand the legal requirement for school districts to comprehensively assess students in all suspected areas of need.
Is your child having difficulty getting along with peers and teachers at school? Does your child seem to be consistently depressed? Is your child exhibiting signs of severe anxiety regarding school and peers? Are any of these factors beginning to have an impact on your child's grades? If so, your child may be eligible for Special Education Services under the category of Emotional Disturbance. The eligibility requirements for qualification under the category of Emotional Disturbance are as follows:
Parents who attend IEP meetings are generally looking to obtain something very simple for their child, an educational placement that is appropriate and will allow their child the opportunity to make substantive educational progress. However, the IEP process can be very stressful and confusing. What all parents should be aware of in preparing for an IEP meeting, is that the burden is on the school district to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education ("FAPE") for all children. Not only must the educational placement be appropriate, but it also must be qualify as a clear written offer. (Union Sch. Dist, v Smith, (9th Cir. 1994), 15 F.3d 1519.)
School districts are required to provide all students with a Free and Appropriate Public Education, often times referred to as "FAPE". What constitutes "appropriate" is a point of much contention between parents, school districts and attorneys alike. Therefore, it has been left up to the courts to shed more light on what actually constitutes appropriate public education. Located below is a brief glimpse into how different courts have weighed in on this discussion. In determining whether the Local Education Agency has offered Student a FAPE, the proper focus is on the adequacy of the offer of placement. If a student fails to make progress within a reasonable period of time, the LEA must convene an IEP meeting to address the student's lack of progress. A LEA's continuation of inadequate services will almost certainly be regarded as a denial of FAPE.
Following an IEP meeting a parent may be left feeling as though some parts of the IEP are appropriate, while also believing that other parts of the IEP were not appropriately addressed. Can parents provide only partial consent to an IEP document, and if so, are school district's responsible for implementing the portions of the IEP that were consented to?
Emergency Interventions may only be used to control unpredictable, spontaneous behavior that poses clear and present danger of serious physical harm to the individual with exceptional needs, or others, and that cannot be immediately prevented by a response less restrictive than the temporary application of a technique used to contain the behavior. California Education Code Section 56521.1.
Traditional public schools are government operated and funded institutions. Being that these schools receive federal funding, they are required to follow federal regulations and mandates. With regard to special education rights and protections, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") is the primary federal law governing public schools. The IDEA requires that each child be provided with a Free and Appropriate Public Education ("FAPE"). The IDEA defines FAPE as follows: special education and related services that (a) have been provided at public expense; (b) meet the standards of the State educational agency; (c) include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education; and (d) are provided in conformity with the individualized education. 20 U.S.C. § 602(9).