A June 22, 2012 letter from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) outlines how Least Restrictive Environment Requirements (LRE) under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) applies to transition work placements for youth. Students, parents, and school personnel often have questions on this topic. The guidance provided by OSERS is intended to answer questions for IEP teams, clarify reporting requirements for school personnel, and ensure that youth with disabilities are receiving transition services, including work experiences, in the most integrated setting.
To read the full text of the OSERS letter go to: www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/ 062212workplacelre2q2012.doc
Is an individualized education program (IEP) Team required to include work placement in a transition-age student’s IEP?
In Georgia, transition requirements begin no later than entry into the 9th grade, or by age 16 whichever comes first. Nationwide, the age is 16 and best practices indicate that the transition process should begin as early as 6th grade. When most students leave high school, they will exit successfully if they are graduating with a job or pursuing post-secondary education. The IEP must include a statement of appropriate, measurable postsecondary goals for the student based on age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment and, where appropriate, independent living skills. It also must include a description of the transition services needed to assist the student in reaching the goals. Work placement is an appropriate service for a student with a disability transitioning from school. When the IEP team, including the student, determines that it is an appropriate transition service, work placement would be required as part of the student’s IEP.
Must a school provide a written notice of placement for a work setting if it is included in a student’s IEP?
Yes, if a work placement is included in a student’s IEP, it is considered part of the student’s educational program. Therefore, parents must receive prior written notice before initiating or changing a work placement.
Is a work placement for a youth required to meet Least Restrictive Requirements (LRE)?
LRE means that a student with a disability, to the maximum extent appropriate, is educated with children without disabilities. When a work placement is part of a student’s IEP it must comply with LRE and thus IEP teams must consider the supplementary aids and services that could be provided to allow a student to participate in a work placement with his or her peers without disabilities. A work placement in a segregated environment would only be determined to be appropriate by law if the IEP team agrees that even the use of supplementary aids and services would not support a student to participate in a work experience in a more integrated setting.
What types of supplementary aids and services should an IEP team consider when determining a least restrictive work placement?
Supplementary aids and services available to students with disabilities are defined generally in the law as “aids, services and other supports.” These aids and services should be based on peer-reviewed research and are intended to help a student meet goals, make progress and participate with peers without disabilities. The National Secondary and Transition Technical Assistance Center has analyzed evidence-based practices to teach job skills. Their list of reviewed practices includes such things as job coaching to teach employment skills, video modeling, picture cues, and other assistive technology. These supports could be provided through a variety of funding mechanisms, including Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). The employment supports provided by VR can include Youth Transition On-the-Job Training (OJT); temporary work/internship, supported employment work trials, etc. Again, only after use of supplementary aids is discussed and considered by an IEP team would discussion of a more restrictive work placement be allowed by law.
How do State Educational Agencies monitor least restrictive environment in work placements?
SEAs have the responsibility to monitor LRE in all settings. If there is evidence that a school district is making placements that are inconsistent with LRE, the State Education Agency will conduct a review and if there is no justification for certain segregated placements, it may assist in planning or implementing any necessary corrective action.