"Placement" and Least Restrictive Environment under the IDEA
Both federal and state law require school districts to provide a program within the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) to each special education student. (See 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.114, et seq.) More specifically, a special education student must be educated with non-disabled peers "[t]o the maximum extent appropriate," and may be removed from the regular education environment only when the nature and severity of the student's disabilities is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services "cannot be achieved satisfactorily."
You just had an IEP meeting, and the school district offered your child a change of placement from general education to a special day class. What do you do? You may be wondering if this placement is appropriate for your child, even though the school district personnel told you it was. You may be wondering what other options are available?
You may have heard someone at an IEP meeting or another parent refer to something called mainstreaming, and wondered exactly what that is. "Mainstreaming" refers to placement of a child who receives special education services into the general education curriculum. For example, if a child is placed within a Special Day Class for most of the day, they might be "mainstreamed" into general education for an elective (like art or music) for a single period each day.