Least Restrictive Environment and Shortened School Days

Posted By Hollingsworth & Zivitz Attorneys at Law || 14-Dec-2017

By Tom Blessing
Indiana Special Education Attorney
Hollingsworth & Zivitz
tblessing@hzlegal.com

Least Restrictive Environment

Under the law, public schools are required to educate students with disabilities in what’s called their least restrictive environment, or LRE. The goal is to make sure that kids with disabilities are educated with their typical peers “to the maximum extent appropriate.” If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), her LRE should be specified towards the end of the document in a section under that heading with a numerical code for her placement (general education: 50, resource room: 51, life skills: 52, etc.).

There’s not really a definition of LRE and each student’s LRE is different depending on her needs, but basically the less a student’s placement resembles a traditional classroom, the more restrictive it is. For example, a general education classroom falls on the “least” restrictive end of the continuum, while resource and self-contained classrooms are “more” restrictive. Placements out of school are considered on the “most” restrictive end of the continuum and would include homebound, therapeutic day and residential programs. For some students with a serious mental illness or other intensive needs, their LRE may be a day program or residential placement even though those are “most” restrictive categories because that is what they require in order to receive a free appropriate education (FAPE).

In certain limited situations, students may be placed on homebound instruction but only if their case conference committee determines that homebound is the student’s LRE “appropriate to enable the student to benefit from special education and related services.” Despite the term, homebound services are not necessarily delivered in the student’s home. They can be provided after hours at school or at an offsite location, such as a public library or hospital. And while schools generally have to hold a case conference (IEP meeting) annually for disabled students, they are required to do so every 60 days for students on homebound to review the IEP and make sure that homebound is still her LRE.

Shortened School Days

Public schools are generally required by law to allow disabled students to attend school for the same hours as nondisabled students. I get many calls from parents whose children have been put on a shortened schedule by their school district, usually because the student has been having challenging behaviors at school and the staff are not trained to manage them or it’s just easier to not have the student in school for a full day. If parents don’t know their rights, they may agree to the school’s “suggestion” that their child be put on a shortened schedule—or may think that they don’t have a choice. Sometimes schools require students to “earn” the right to attend school for a full day, allowing them to spend more time at school if they’re “good.”

You may be thinking, “Isn’t that discrimination?”, or “How is the school supposed to implement my child’s IEP when she’s not there?” Those are good questions. Unfortunately, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from parents whose children are having behavior problems related to their disability at school and the schools are putting them on a shortened schedule or homebound.

INSource is a great resource for disabled students. They posted this Q&A with Pam Wright, Director of the Office of Special Education at the Indiana Department of Education, on their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/INSOURCEparentshelpingparents/posts/10154902780032175

If you have a disabled child who has been placed on homebound or a shortened school day, speak with an Indiana special education attorney today. You may call or email me for a free consultation.

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