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Legal Memorandum: Federal Financial Assistance under IDEA

Issue: What must the State of New Jersey do in order to receive federal financial assistance under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?

Area of Law: Education Law
Keywords: Federal Financial Assistance; Children with disabilities; Special education and related services
Jurisdiction: Federal, New Jersey
Cited Cases: 41 F.3d 1162; 995 F.2d 1204; 336 F.3d 260; 190 F.3d 80; 62 F.3d 520; 231 F.3d 96; 172 F.3d 238; 116 N.J. 30
Cited Statutes: 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(5)(A); N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.2(a);
Date: 04/01/2009

In order to receive federal financial assistance under the IDEA, the State of New Jersey must ensure that “[t]o the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature and severity of the disability of the child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”  20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(5)(A).  In other words, a District is required to offer a student with disabilities special education and related services in the least restrictive environment.  N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.2(a).

Ordinarily, the law prefers mainstreaming disabled children by integrating them in regular classrooms with regular students to the greatest extent possible.  Oberti v. Bd. of Educ. of Clementon Sch. Dist., 995 F.2d 1204, 1207 (3d Cir. 1993); Carlisle Area Sch. v. Scott P., 62 F.3d 520, 535 (3d Cir. 1995).  However, parents are not held to the same mainstreaming obligations as are school boards.  Warren G. v. Cumberland County Sch. Dist., 190 F.3d 80, 84 (3d Cir. 1999); M.S. v. Bd. of Educ., 231 F.3d 96, 102 (2d Cir. 2000).  Rather, the least restrictive environment requirement is an individualized, fact-sensitive inquiry taking all considerations into account to ensure the best educational environment for J.A.  […]

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