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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Least Restrictive Environment

In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

A July 18 release from COPAA:
Today, a diverse coalition of professional, legal and advocacy organizations met with Department of Education Chief of Staff Nate Bailey, Acting General Counsel Reed Rubenstein and OSERS Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett to discuss what we considered to be an imminent threat of a policy reinterpretation of the Least RestrictiveEnvironment (LRE) provisions, which is a cornerstone of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Our concern was generated by credible information that the Department of Education was planning to alter or reinterpret the law’s  presumption -- that all children with disabilities will be educated in the general education classroom; except in the rare circumstance that the student cannot get a satisfactory education in that environment even with supplementary aids and services. Any reinterpretation of LRE would alter or weaken IDEA’s clear requirement that general education must be the first consideration for placement for every student.
At today’s meeting, we were assured by Mr. Bailey that there would be no such reinterpretation of LRE in the immediate future, and that the Department of Education (Department) would uphold the law. However, they noted that nothing was off the table as part of the Department’s Rethink Framework. They provided assurances to us that they would collaborate with stakeholder groups and experts in the field, though we made it clear to them that we would oppose any and all reinterpretations of LRE – a basic tenet of IDEA - that could infringe upon the civil rights of children with disabilities.
The following is a statement that reflects the position of a broader coalition of stakeholders.
“Our coalition, which represents the diverse community of individuals and organizations  that care about, educate and protect the rights of children with disabilities, will vehemently oppose any effort put forward by the Department of Education that alters or re-interprets the law’s presumption. We are shocked that the Department even considered pursuing this course. However, with millions of children, families, teachers and school leaders behind us, we will work together to vigorously protect current law and fight any interpretation of LRE that alters or weakens IDEA’s clear requirement that schools and districts must consider general education first, for every child. We must protect IDEA’s presumption of general education because without it, we can expect to see increases in the inappropriate placement of children with disabilities in more segregated settings which contradicts the clear language, intent, and established legal precedent of the

Read COPAA's Full LRE Letter to DeVos.

Read CCD LRE Principles.