The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) mandates that a child with a disability be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with children who are not disabled.  A child may only be removed from the regular education setting if the nature and severity of the disability is such that the child cannot be educated in regular classes, even with the use of supplementary aids and services.  20 U.S.C.1412 (a)(5).   This so-called “mainstreaming” right refers to the child’s right to be in the “least restrictive environment.”

The IDEA requires that each school district have a “continuum of placement options” from a regular placement all the way to residential placement. 20 U.S.C.1412 (a)(5)

While the IDEA “prefers” placement in a regular setting, ultimately all IEP decisions, including placement/LRE, must be based on a child’s unique needs.

A child’s right to LRE includes an educational placement to be as close to the child’s home as possible, preferably in the school the child would attend if non-disabled. In determining the educational placement of a child with a disability, including a preschool child with a disability the District must ensure that the placement decision is made by a group of persons, including the parents, other professionals knowledgeable about the child, the testing and the placement options.  And while these rights are important – attending a regular class, going to the school the child would attend if not disabled – each decision must be individual and based on the child’s needs.