What specific special education services they receive is not the only thing that can have big impacts on students with disabilities. Another is the environment in which they receive these services.
This environment can affect the level of inclusion or exclusion a student feels at their school. This can influence how likely they are to feel isolated or stigmatized or similar negative things at school that could hurt their overall education experience.
So, parents of special needs students may be glad to know that educational environment is among the things federal special education law has requirements on. Specifically, federal law gives special education students the right to be educated in the least restrictive environment possible given their particular education needs. As we note on our webpage on least restrictive environment matters, generally, an environment’s “restrictiveness” is gauged by how close it is to the standard educational environment. The closer it is, the less restrictive.
There are legal actions parents may have available when their child’s school district has violated this requirement in connection to their child’s special education services.
Students with disabilities vary greatly in their special education needs. So, there is not one standard type of “least restrictive environment” for special needs students. Rather, what the least restrictive environment is is something that is unique to each student. So, a lot of different factors can go into whether a school has met this requirement in connection to the education environment in which they have placed a special needs student.
This could leave a parent who is feeling unsettled about an environment their special needs child has been placed in for school unsure about whether they have grounds to challenge the placement. In such a situation, having a skilled attorney review their child’s situation could help a parent understand whether their child’s rights regarding least restrictive environment have likely been violated. Such lawyers can also explain and give guidance on available legal options to parents when it is found that such a violation likely occurred.