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Special Education and Disability Access: The IDEA and Placing Disabled Kids

The placement of children with disabilities under the IDEA occurs after the development of an individualized education program, described above. Local agencies must take into account a variety of factors, many of which are described in relevant regulations concerning the implementation of IDEA. Such considerations include the child's performance on aptitude and achievement tests; parental input; recommendations from teachers; the physical condition of the child; the social and cultural background of the child; and the adaptive behavior of the child. If the local agency fails to provide appropriate placement, the child's parent(s) may place the child unilaterally and seek reimbursement from the agency.

Several requirements under IDEA apply to the placement of a child. Although placement should be as close to the child's home as possible, there is no absolute requirement that the school selected is the closest to the child's home. If the closest school would not provide what would be considered free appropriate public education, the agency may select a more suitable school, even if it is farther away. The placement must be in the least restrictive environment, which generally restricts the ability of a school to segregate children with special education needs. Only in cases where the disability is so severe that regular classroom attendance would not be appropriate can complete segregation occur. This provision is often referred to as a mainstreaming requirement.

The placement of a child is required be reviewed annually. If placement is changed, an existing individualized education program must support it, since placement itself is based on the IEP. Parents must be notified under IDEA requirements, and several states require that parental consent must be obtained before a local agency can make a change in placement for a disabled child.

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