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COPAA Supports a Student’s Right to an Education in the Least Restrictive Environment

Tuesday, January 8, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jamie Anderson

COPAA filed an amicus brief in the 1st Circuit last month in C. D. v. Natick Public School District and Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals.  Selene Almazan and Ellen Saideman drafted and filed the brief on behalf of COPAA. Laura Martucci, COPAA member, and Benjamin Wish filed the brief on behalf of the parents. COPAA’s brief supported the parents’ least restrictive environment (LRE) argument.

Congress made clear that one of its overriding priorities in enacting IDEA was giving students with disabilities access to the general education curriculum and education in the regular classroom to the maximum extent possible.  This requirement has been strengthened in subsequent reauthorizations of the IDEA.  Thus, in the most recent reauthorization, Congress found “almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom, to the maximum extent possible.” 20 U.S.C. § 1400(c)(5).  Moreover, abundant quantitative and qualitative research demonstrates that students with disabilities can achieve considerable educational benefit from access to the general education curriculum and placement in general education classes with supplementary aids and services, such as modified curriculum, resource rooms,  itinerant instruction, and support from paraprofessionals. 

IDEA’s mandates are not empty aspirations; in fact, research demonstrates that children with disabilities can achieve considerably more educational benefit from placement in general education classes with access to the general education curriculum through supplementary aids and services than from placement in special education classrooms or schools with limited access, or no access to their age-appropriate non-disabled peers or general education curriculum.  Further, the research also supports the finding that when students with and without disabilities spend time together, all students benefit; thus, there is a positive correlation between academic achievement and inclusion. 

Additionally, the Supreme Court has made clear that the IEPs of children with disabilities must be “appropriately ambitious” to enable them to make progress in the general education curriculum in light of their unique abilities.  Endrew F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist. RE-1, 137 S. Ct. 988, 1000 (2017).  The Court explained that children with disabilities are to be challenged to reach their potential progress just as their non-disabled peers are.  For most students, including students with intellectual disabilities, including borderline intelligence, this progress happens most effectively when children with disabilities are given access to the general education curriculum and included in the general education classrooms with their peers without disabilities. School districts are required to comply both with Endrew F.’s requirement that IEPs be “appropriately ambitious” and the statutory requirement that students receive their educational services in the children’s least restrictive environment.

Read COPAA’s Brief in C. D. v. Natick Public School District and Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals.

Read Appellant Brief in C. D. v. Natick Public School District and Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals.


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