T.M. was born in July 2004. He has been diagnosed with autism, a developmental disorder whose symptoms include difficulty with social interaction, difficulty with communication, and repetitive behavior.
In May 2009, Cornwall’s Committee on Special Education (“CSE”) determined that T.M. needed a twelve-month educational program, including extended school year (ESY) services, in order to prevent substantial regression in his development. The school did not extend the least restrictive environment (LRE) to the ESY.
Parents brought action alleging that school district’s placement of autistic student during pendency of dispute process failed to meet (LRE) requirement of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The main issue the court had to decide was whether the LRE applies the ESY placement. The Second Circuit held that it does because under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a disabled student’s least restrictive environment refers to the least restrictive educational setting consistent with that student’s needs, not the least restrictive setting that the school district chooses to make available.
In order to comply with the LRE requirement, for the ESY component of a twelve-month educational program as for the school-year component, a school district must consider an appropriate continuum of alternative placements, and then must offer the student the least restrictive placement from that continuum that is appropriate for the student’s disabilities.