Your son has an IEP. He has severe behavioral challenges and physically aggresses towards peers and school staff, including bringing weapons to school. He is consistently unable to meet his IEP goals. Nothing is working and you fear for his safety. When should you consider residential placement?
School districts must make available a “continuum of alternative placements.” (34 C.F.R. § 300.115(a).) Notwithstanding the emphasis on educating students in the least restrictive environment, “residential placement is appropriate for a disabled child if necessary for [him] to receive benefit from [his] education.” (Seattle School Dist., No. 1 v. B.S. (9th Cir. 1996) 82 F.3d 1493, 1500; 34 C.F.R. § 300.104.)
The appropriateness of residential placement turns on whether it “may be considered necessary for educational purposes, or whether the placement is a response to medical, social, or emotional problems that is necessary quite apart from the learning process.” (Ashland School Dist. v. Parents of Student E.H. (9th Cir. 2009) 587 F.3d 1175, 1185 (quoting Clovis Unified Sch. Dist. v. Cal. Office of Admin. Hearings (9th Cir.1990) 903 F.2d 635, 643).) Yet, the benefits of residential placement — educational or otherwise — are not always mutually exclusive.
Above all, residential treatment is a matter of need, not of last resort, as the IDEA does not require “years in an educational environment likely to be inadequate and to impede […] progress simply to permit the School District to try every option short of residential placement.” (B.S., supra, 82 F.3d 1493, 1501.)
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