BYU Education & Law Journal


K-12 Education, Special Education, Education Law


In decisions regarding services for a student classified with a

disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement

Act (IDEIA), one of the most impactful choices for an IEP

team or local education agency is whether a student should receive a

one-on-one aide to enhance the least restrictive environment. Many

parents seek such services for their children, while many education

agencies resist, claiming that that one-on-one aides are not appropriate

for a particular student and in fact may not actually provide

the least restrictive environment for the student as established under

the IDEA.

This study examined patterns of legal provision or refusal of

one-on-one aides when disagreements reached due process hearing

level. Patterns of differences were analyzed among states and among

disabilities for which aides were provided. No single clearinghouse

of data compares patterns among states, but access to national due

process hearing decisions enabled us to make comparisons over a

year as desired. The decision to initiate a due process hearing is a

parental decision, and many subjective factors enter into that decision.

As a result, studying due process hearings is not an exact data

point into conflict between parents and schools, because many parents

choose, for various reasons to not initiate a due process hearing,

however, such hearings constitute one of the few national large scale

data points available to compare service and aide provision patterns.

Provision or denial of one-on-one aides potentially impacts

students’ rights to be educated in the least restrictive environment

(LRE), and potentially impacts what is a free and appropriate public

education (FAPE) for an individual student. First, all students with

disabilities have the right to be educated with nondisabled peers to

the maximum extent appropriate. Second, only when the regular education

placement with the use of supplementary aids and services

cannot provide a satisfactory education does the IDEIA allow for a

student with a disability to be educated in another environment.

When a different setting is considered in an IEP, the IDEIA provides a

continuum of settings from least to most restrictive: regular classroom,

special classes, special schools, home instruction, and hospital

or institutional instruction. To enable regular classroom placement,

an IEP team may consider parents' request for a one-on-one aide if

this would be the most appropriate and least restrictive for the student—

educationally appropriate with the most complete integration.

Classic court decisions have helped define factors to be

considered in considering LRE. The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled

on this issue directly, but several U.S. Courts of Appeals' decisions

provide precedent. From Daniel R.R. v. State Board of Ed., 874 F.2d

1036 (1989), the court created the Daniel R.R. test: Can satisfactory

education in a regular education setting be achieved with supplementary

aids and services? If satisfactory education cannot be provided

and the school removes the student from a regular classroom,

does the school mainstream the child to the maximum extent appropriate?

Both Greer v. Rome City School District, 950 F.2d 688 (1991),

and Oberti v. Board of Education, 995 F.2d 1204 (1993), applied the

Daniel R.R. criteria; in both cases the courts ruled that the schools

had not provided adequate support services for the students to remain

in regular classrooms and had not sufficiently attempted to

modify the regular class curriculum to assist the students.

Supplementary aids and services may make learning in the

regular education environment possible for students with disabilities. These "may include pre-referral interventions, consultation,

behavior management plans, paraprofessionals, itinerant teachers,

resource rooms, assistive technology, staff in-services, or other . . .

support for the student and his or her teachers.” Such assistance

ranges dramatically depending on the students' needs as well as on

the specific IEP teams, school districts, and states.

An abundance of research asserts that students with learning

disabilities make significant academic and social improvements

when taught by general education teachers with their grade-level

peers in inclusive settings with appropriate support. But providing

appropriate support is challenging and can be costly.

A one-on-one aide is often a paraprofessional assigned to support

a single student in a regular education classroom, allowing the

student to receive grade level instruction with special education

support. The LRE definition in IDEIA does not indicate that aides

and services should be limited by disability type, but discrepancies

do exist. Researchers in this study were particularly concerned with

unevenness in support between students with easily identifiable disabilities,

such as deafness, and those with behavioral challenges.

Students with less visible physical challenges often may not be provided

one on one paraprofessional aides.

This research endeavored to provide insight on the applications

of the broad goals and pu4rposes of the IDEIA at the local levels

by identifying patterns in states' policies, particularly regarding inequities

or blind spots in meeting students’ needs. The undergirding

principle of IDEIA is that decisions should be individualized to the

needs of each qualifying student, not bound by preset guidelines or

paradigms that might prevent considering one-on-one aides when

appropriate. We began this research expecting to find patterns in

due process decisions suggesting the difference alluded to above between

provision of aides for students such as students with hearing

loss, and students on the spectrum for autism, or with other behavioral

disorders. We investigated all relevant due process hearing decisions

in 2014 and 2015, looking particularly for state differences

that might reveal conflicts in interpretations and policies.