It’s Toolbox Tuesday! Tool #3 is about moving a student to a more restrictive environment. Isn’t that hard to justify?

The Toolbox is a set of 10 tools designed to help school administrators and teachers serve students with disabilities appropriately and safely, even when they present challenging behaviors.  Tool #3 is an Educational Change of Placement Without Parental Agreement.

Is it hard to justify such a thing?  Yes.  Tool #3 is the first of the ten tools that involves disagreement between the parent and the school.  We know that you work hard to maintain consensus with parents, as you should. But sometimes it becomes impossible to both serve the student appropriately, and maintain harmony with the parent. So Tool #3 is available in those cases.

Let’s consider a typical example.  Matthew is an 8-year old with an intellectual disability.  Matthew has been in the mainstream third grade classroom all year, with an inclusion teacher coming into the classroom for parts of the day to help him out.  Now it is late January, and the teachers who work directly with Matthew are all of the opinion that his current placement is not working out well.  He is falling farther and farther behind his peers in the mainstream, and his behaviors are becoming a major problem.  Parents of other students are calling to complain when they hear stories of Matthew’s classroom tantrums.  We feel that we have implemented his IEP and BIP faithfully. We have worked diligently to enable him to be successful in this mainstream classroom. But it’s not working, either for Matthew or the rest of the class.  The school decides to propose a change of placement—moving Matthew into the Life Skills class for about half of the day.

If the parent agrees with that decision, you are using Tool #2—an Educational Change of Placement with Parental Agreement.  If the parent does not agree, then you are using Tool #3.

The school should use this tool only when school staff feel strongly that they are doing the right thing.  The parent will be entitled to a due process hearing to challenge the proposed change of placement. The “stay put” rule will keep Matthew in the mainstream classroom while that hearing is conducted.  The school will need to convince the hearing officer that the change of placement is appropriate.  To do this, the school will need to produce evidence that 1) it made a good faith effort to serve Matthew in the LRE; and 2) there are services that can be provided in Life Skills that Matthew needs, and that cannot be provided in the mainstream.