LRE Applies to Work Placements

In a letter to Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, one of my Protection and Advocacy colleagues with Disability Rights Wisconsin, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)(Letter to Spitzer-Resnick 112 LRP 32664 (OSEP June 22, 2012), acknowledged that school districts must consider the least restrictive environment when making work placements. Mr. Spitzer-Resnick’s letter asked several questions regarding the IEP process and LRE as they relate to transition-age students and work placements. Melody Musgrave, the Director of OSEP, notes that a “Work placement can be an appropriate transition service, depending on the individual needs of a student, but is not a required component of all IEP’s that address transition services. If an IEP team determines that work placement is an appropriate transition service for a child it must be included in the child’s IEP.” (emphasis added)

As with other services described in the IEP, if the school district (public agency)  is “proposing or refusing to initiate or change a work placement that is part of a child’s transition services, the public agency would be required to provide the parent with written notice…a reasonable time before the proposed placement is initiated or changed.”

The OSEP letter specifically affirms that LRE principles apply to placement decisions, including those related to transition services and including work placements. Thus, the school district must provide supplementary aids and services, if needed, to “enable the student to participate with other students with disabilities and nondisabled students in the work placement described in the IEP.”

The fact, however, that the LRE principles apply to transition services and work placements does not mean that  children can never be placed in a segregated employment program. “Under the IDEA, a segregated employment program may an appropriate work placement for a particular student if determined appropriate by that student’s IEP team based on the LRE requirements and the specific individualized needs of that student.” But, OSEP re-emphasizes that state education agencies (SEA) must ensure that the LRE requirements of the IDEA are implemented by school districts. If there is evidence that a school district makes placements, including work placements, that are not consistent with the principles of LRE, the SEA must review the school districts justification for its actions and assist in planning and implementing any necessary corrective action. In short, parents and advocates can complain to the SEA that the school district is not considering LRE in providing transition services and making work placements.

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