Special Ed Conference Preview: What’s Going On With LRE?

Janet Horton, a named partner of Thompson & Horton, LLP, in Houston, is a featured speaker at this year’s upcoming Spring Conferences on Special Education and will discuss What’s Going On With LRE?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) requires school districts to educate special education students in the “least restrictive environment” or LRE.  That is, students must be educated with non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.

In evaluating whether an educational program meets LRE requirements, courts first ask whether education in the regular classroom, with the use of supplemental aids and services, can be achieved satisfactorily for a given child.  If it cannot, and the district plans to remove a child from the regular education setting, courts ask whether the school has mainstreamed the student to the maximum extent appropriate.

Disagreements can emerge when a parent and school district cannot reconcile what constitutes LRE for the child.  For example, in A.B. v. Clear Creek Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 4:17-CV-2382, 2018 WL 4680564 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 28, 2018), a Houston federal court considered whether a student’s removal from the general education setting and placement in a self-contained, special education classroom met LRE standards.

After a due process hearing, the hearing officer concluded that the proposed self-contained placement did not constitute LRE and the federal court agreed.  While the student had a history of disruptive and task-avoidance behaviors, those behaviors had significantly improved. The self-contained classroom contained students with severe behavioral issues and there was a risk the student would regress in that setting.

The Court concluded that removal of the student from the general education class with in-class and resource room support in all core academic classes, was not reasonably calculated to provide him with an educational benefit in the least restrictive environment.

This case is currently on appeal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  For more of Janet Horton’s insight into this and other recent court decisions, join us at Ed311’s Spring Conferences on Special Education Law scheduled on April 29, 2019 in Arlington and May 2, 2019 in San Marcos.  For details and registration information, visit ED311’s event page.

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