OSEP issues guidance on parental participation in student placement decisions

In a recent policy letter, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services addressed the question of parental involvement in the educational placement decisions for children with disabilities. In particular, the letter addresses whether parents are required to be members of the group of persons who determine how far from home a student is to be placed.

At the time this policy letter was made public last November, I was representing a child who had been unilaterally placed by her school principal in a setting that was much too restrictive for her. One of the primary issues in her case was whether the school district had denied the child a free appropriate public education (FAPE) by making this placement decision without parental participation. I argued that the school district definitely had denied the child a FAPE.

Although the law referenced in the letter is not new to me, and it may not be new to you, the letter to provides a valuable review and clarification of law regarding special education student placement decisions. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, placement decisions are to be made by a group of persons, including the parents, and other persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of evaluation data, and the placement options.