Thursday, July 30, 2009

Breaking Down the IEP: Explanation of Non-Participation in Regular Education

Many of the other required content components of a written IEP document are directed at how a child can and will participate in the general education curriculum and regular education environment.

To recap: PLOP must state how a child's disability affects his/her involvement and progress in the general curriculum. Goals must be included that enable the child to be involved in and progress in general curriculum. The statement of special education and related services must include those services that are required to enable the child to progress in general education curriculum as well as to participate in activities with and be educated with non-disabled peers. Supplementary aids and services must be included that allow the child to participate in general education to the maximum extent appropriate. Even supports necessary for staff can be related to a child's participation in general education.

After all of that effort to include components geared towards inclusion in general education, it logically follows that if a child is still unable to participate in general education to any extent, that should also be documented.

The IDEA requires that the written IEP document include:
"an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in activities[]."
20 U.S.C. section 1414(d)(1)(A)(V)

Look to your state's education code as well, as there may be additional language requiring documentation of a child's non-participation in general education. California law, for example, required the District to "document its rationale for placement in other than the pupil's school and classroom in which the pupil would otherwise attend if the pupil were not handicapped. The documentation shall indicate why the pupil's handicap prevents his or her needs from being met in a less restrictive environment even with the use of supplementary aids and services." Title 5, California Code of Regulations, section 3042(b).

In any event, the IEP document must include at a minimum an explanation that describes the extent to which the child will not participate in a regular class and activities. This can be done a number of ways. The IEP document may include a percentage of time, that indicates for X% child will be placed in general education classes, and for X% child will be placed in a special education setting. The IEP document may list specific time periods, subjects or classes, such as "child will participate in a general education class / setting for homeroom, math, science, social studies, computers, lunch and recess; child will participate in a special education classroom for language arts and reading." The IEP document needs to be clear so that those developing and implementing it understand how much the child is not to participate in the general education setting. It is also good practice to indicate the explanation, or justification, for removal from that setting.

The requirement refers not only to a regular classroom, but also to regular activities. Therefore, the extent to which the child will not be able to participate in regular education activities should also be documented in the IEP. This may include extracurricular and nonacademic activities in some cases, or may indicate recess, assemblies, etc.

These requirements are built into what is to be included in the IEP document in order to prompt the IEP team to fully consider LRE. If the IEP team needs to document an explanation for the child's nonparticipation in a general education setting, the theory is that it will give more careful consideration to the determination that the child should be removed from that setting.

Remember, like all required content, this statement should give parents enough information to fully participate in the development of the IEP. Parents need to understand when, why and how a child will be removed from the least restrictive environment in order to fully consider such an option.

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