Least Restrictive Environment: An Analysis of Due Process in Texas Public Schools
Hudson, Tiffani Caldwell
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Background: Prior to the 1970’s students with disabilities were commonly placed in classrooms segregated from their nondisabled peers. School policies such as closed student records and excluding parents from the decision-making process made it difficult for parents to advocate for their children. These problems were ongoing and resulted in the need for legislation. Purpose: This study reviewed the experience of the researcher and analyzed due process hearings involving a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) and the least restrictive environment (LRE) in Texas public schools. Recommendations of the due process hearing officers were reviewed to identify trends among the sample. Furthermore, this study provided support for a closer look at federal law involving placement for Special Education students, as well as school policy and procedures used to determine educational program placements. Methods: An account of the researcher’s experience and summaries from due process hearings between the years 2012-2015 were obtained. Qualitative data analysis was utilized to identify characteristics that appear commonly among the sample and sought to identify relationships between decision-making practices or procedures regarding program placement and outcomes of due process hearings based on the experience of the researcher and data derived from due process hearings. Results: Data analysis showed common themes among hearing officers recommendations requiring Texas public schools to provide financial compensation for costs of alternative education placements by denying a FAPE based on the LRE. Conclusions: The conclusion revealed that decisions made in Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meetings and adherence to the Special Education legal framework of the ARD process appear to be primary factors resulting in denial of FAPE and is more often followed by orders of financial compensation and/or orders to change a student’s educational placement.