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This document is part of Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Students: Policy Guidance from OSERS (2000)

Part B requires States to have policies and procedures for ensuring that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are not disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. 38 This requirement is known as the least restrictive environment (LRE) requirement. Consistent with this LRE principle, the IDEA Amendments of 1997 require that each child's IEP contain an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not be educated and participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in academic, extracurricular, and other nonacademic activities. 39 Department regulations also provide that a child with a disability is not removed from education in age-appropriate regular classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general curriculum for that child. 40

Thus, before a disabled child can be removed from the regular classroom, the placement team, which includes the child's parents, must consider whether the child can be educated in less restrictive settings with the use of appropriate supplementary aids and services and make a more restrictive placement only when they conclude that education in the less restrictive setting with appropriate supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. 41

Recognizing that the regular classroom may not be the LRE placement for every disabled student, the Part B regulations require public agencies to make available a continuum of alternative placements or a range of placement options, to meet the needs of students with disabilities for special education and related services. The options on this continuum include instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions. In addition, the continuum must make provision for supplementary services (such as resource room or itinerant instruction) to be provided in conjunction with regular class placement. 42

Part B also requires that each child's placement must be based on the child's IEP. 43 That is why placement decisions cannot be made before a student's IEP is developed. Rather, it is the child's IEP that forms the basis for the placement decision. This means, for example, that the statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, the statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child, and the explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in regular classes and other academic, nonacademic and extracurricular activities, form the basis for the placement decision. Under Part B, the IEP team for each child with a disability must make an individualized determination regarding how the child will participate in the general curriculum, including supports needed for the child, and what, if any, educational needs will not be met through involvement in the general curriculum. If, in the evaluation process, full consideration has been given to the range of accommodations and modifications that might be needed for the blind or visually impaired student, including a student who has other disabilities, such as a hearing impairment or an emotional disability, to access the general curriculum offered to nondisabled students, information about those needs should be readily available to the IEP team. After the student's IEP is developed, the placement determination, that is, the determination as to the setting in which services will be provided, must be made on an individual basis, consistent with the student's IEP and the Act's LRE requirements.

The IDEA Amendments of 1997 specify that the placement decision is made by a group of persons, including the parents, and other persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options. 44 Public agencies and parent training and information centers should take steps to ensure that parents of blind and visually impaired students are informed about available placement options for their child, including those addressing unique needs arising from a child's blindness or visual impairment and other disabilities, if applicable, and other identified educational needs. This will help to ensure that parents can provide meaningful input to the group making the placement decision.

The overriding rule in placement is that each student's placement must be determined on an individual basis. 45 In addition, as is true for students with other disabilities, the potential harmful effect of the placement on the blind or visually impaired student, or the quality of services he or she needs, must be considered in determining the LRE. 46 As in other situations, placements of blind and visually impaired students, including those with other disabilities, may not be based solely on factors such as category of disability, significance of disability, availability of special education and related services, availability of space, configuration of the service delivery system, or administrative convenience. 47

In implementing Part B's LRE requirements, in some instances, placement decisions are inappropriately made before IEPs that address a child's unique needs are developed. Individual determinations of appropriate special education and related services, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications and supports for school personnel must be made through the IEP process, which must address the development of skills necessary for a student to cope with the impact of blindness or low vision or other identified disabilities on the student's ability to learn and to be involved and progress in the general curriculum. Since Part B requires that each child's placement must be based on his or her IEP, making placement decisions before a student's IEP is developed is a practice that violates Part B and could result in the denial of FAPE in the LRE.

Still in other instances, some students have been inappropriately placed in the regular classroom although it has been determined that their IEPs cannot be appropriately implemented in the regular classroom even with the necessary and appropriate supplementary aids and services. In these situations, the nature of the student's disability and individual needs could make it appropriate for the student to be placed in a setting outside of the regular classroom in order to ensure that the student's IEP is satisfactorily implemented. By contrast, there are other instances where some blind and visually impaired students have been inappropriately placed in settings other than the regular classroom, even though their IEPs could have been implemented satisfactorily in the regular classroom with the provision of appropriate supplementary aids and services. As is true for all educational decisions under Part B, these concerns about the misapplication of the LRE requirements for blind and visually impaired students underscore the importance of making individual placement determinations based on each student's unique abilities and needs.

In making placement determinations regarding children who are blind or visually impaired, it is essential that groups making decisions regarding the setting in which appropriate services are provided consider the full range of settings that could be appropriate depending on the individual needs of the blind or visually impaired student, including needs that arise from any other identified disabilities that the student may have. The following are some examples:

  • A regular classroom with needed support services provided in that classroom by an itinerant teacher or by a special education teacher assigned to that school;
  • The regular classroom with services provided outside the classroom by an itinerant teacher or by a special education teacher assigned to that school;
  • A self-contained classroom in a regular school that provides services that address needs arising from the student's blindness or visual impairment as well as other identified disabilities, if applicable; and
  • A special school with a residential component that provides services that address the full range of the blind or visually impaired student's disability-specific needs, including those arising from other disabilities, if applicable.

Back to I. Application of the Free Appropriate Public Education Requirements of Part B to Blind and Visually Impaired Students
Go to III. Procedural Safeguards

Appendix

38 34 CFR 300.550(b).

39 20 U.S.C. 1414(d)(1)(A)(iv) and 34 CFR 300.347(a)(3)-(4); Appendix A, question 1, 64 FR at 12471 (Mar. 12, 1999).

40 34 CFR 300.552(e).

41 34 CFR 300.550(b); Attachment 1, 64 FR at 12638 (Mar. 12, 1999).

42 34 CFR 300.551(b).

43 34 CFR 300.552(b)(2). That regulation requires that each child's placement is determined at least annually, is based on his or her IEP, and is in the school or facility as close as possible to the child's home. 34 CFR 300.552(b)(1)-(3). Further, unless a disabled student's IEP requires some other arrangement, the child is educated in the school that he or she would attend if nondisabled. 34 CFR 300.552(c).

44 20 U.S.C. 1414(f) and 34 CFR 300.501(c) and 300.552(a).

45 See 34 CFR 300.552.

46 34 CFR 300.552(d).

47 Appendix A, question 1, 64 FR 12406 at 12471 (Mar. 12, 1999).