Special Education: NOT the Resource Room, the Classroom in the Trailer, or the Special School Across Town

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Does my daughter, who has an IEP, have to be served by resource classes or can she be totally in mainstream classrooms?

“Special education” under IDEA is not a place or placement or a pre-packaged program. Special education is a “service for children rather than a place where such children are sent.”

Special education is not the resource room, the classroom in the trailer, or the special school across town.

The IDEA includes a “least restrictive environment” (LRE) requirement.

LRE Requirement in IDEA

Special education services should be delivered in regular education classes (not special classes, separate schooling, or other removal from the regular ed environment) except “when the nature or severity of the disability of the child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”

20 U. S. C. § 1412(a)(5) – See page 72 in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law or Chapter 10 – Placement in Wrightslaw: All About IEPs.

If the IEP of a student with a disability can be implemented satisfactorily with the provision of supplementary aids and services in the regular classroom in the school the student would attend if not disabled, that placement is the LRE placement for that student.

The “I” in IEP

When school personnel view special education as a “place,” they often fail to evaluate the child’s unique needs and how the school can meet these needs.

That’s the “I” in IEP. “What we have available” usually refers to one-size-fits-all programs that are not individualized to meet a child’s unique needs.

And remember, parents are members of any team that develops the IEP and decides on placement. IDEA Section 1414(e) requires that the school “…ensure that the parents of each child with a disability are members of any group that makes decision on the educational placement of their child.”

Read Parent Involvement in Placement Decisions at https://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=394

More about Inclusion, LRE, and Mainstreaming at https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/lre.index.htm

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I’m concerned, first my daughter had no para support in her new school and now they have clustered her in all special education rooms when she can function in normal class rooms, just needs para support and adjusted assignments. She learns alot from her peers.


It sounds like she was placed in a more restrictive environment without the IEP team making this decision. Your state parent training & information center can assist you. http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center


When changing a special education student’s schedule from a general education elective course to a special education study skills class, isn’t that placing them in a more restrictive environment?


Yes; however, a study skills class may be beneficial to the child.


I agree. My child’s school created a study skills class instead of putting a bunch of the kids in elective classes–that study skills class gave them the “extra” they needed to make progress and continue on into high school. It supplemented their education in addition to what they were already learning. It was a creative way to really give those kids more academics, experimental learning projects, etc. I thought it was a great idea and truly inspired the kids to higher goals–my child and others went on to college. It was a unique approach and the school district tried something new–and it worked. Most of these kids were just below scores on state assessments and LD–very creative learning objectives.


I really like what you said about how special education services should be delivered in regular education classes and not removing the children from each other except in special circumstances. My little brother was often to be separated from his classmates and had a hard time with it since he’s very social and no danger to anyone. Thank you for the clarification on the law and how it would affect someone with his disabilities.