The Toolbox is a full day training program focused on how school administrators can serve students appropriately, even when they present challenging behaviors. In the Toolbox, we offer ten “tools” that can be used. I recently came across a case that is a good illustration of Tool #3—an Educational Change of Placement Without Parent Consent.
The student was served in the mainstream, receiving only 20 minutes of special education services per day. The student was extremely disruptive and frequently violent. Thus the school officials deemed the current placement to be inappropriate, and called for a change. The school proposed moving the student to a placement that would involve four hours per day of special education services.
We call this type of situation an “educational” change of placement, thereby distinguishing it from a “disciplinary” change of placement. The student’s behaviors were disruptive, but they were caused by the student’s disability. Thus a “disciplinary” change of placement was not available.
An educational change of placement can be done the easy way (with parental approval) or the hard way (without). In the Toolbox we label the easy way “Tool #2” and the hard way “Tool #3.” Here, the parent strongly opposed the change—thus it’s a Tool #3 case.
The parent’s main argument was that the school was proposing this move without first attempting to use “supplementary aids and services” to support the student in the general education classroom. But the federal judge rejected that argument. The court held that districts can move a student to a more restrictive environment without attempting to use supplementary aids and services. Key Quote:
Taylor [the parent] reasons that, because there is a continuum, schools must start at the least restrictive option and move up one step at a time.
Not so. “The regulations do not require that a child has to fail in the less restrictive options on the continuum before that child can be placed in a setting that is appropriate to his or her needs.” 64 Fed. Register 12,406, 12,638 (March 12, 1999).
To be sure, disabled students cannot be removed from regular classes unless “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.” But this does not say that schools must actually try supplementary aids and services before removing children from regular classes. Instead, the IEP team must simply look into whether supplements could be used instead of separate schooling.
The case is I.L. v. Knox County Board of Education, decided by the judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee in 2017. We found it at 70 IDELR 71.
In the Toolbox training we talk about cases like this, and practice using the tools through hypothetical situations. If interested in a Toolbox training, let me know.
DAWG BONE: IF THE BEHAVIOR IS A MANIFESTATION OF DISABILITY YOU CAN’T PROPOSE A DISCIPLINARY CHANGE OF PLACEMENT. BUT YOU CAN PROPOSE AN EDUCATIONAL CHANGE.