This research analyzed all available hearings from 2013 to 2015 in a national database of due process hearings regarding placement issues and determinations of the least restrictive environment for individual students with significant disabilities. The main research question was whether parents/guardians and due process hearing officers sought placements for these children with significant disabilities that considered creatively and holistically a range of options rather than just a dialogue between already extant possible programmatic offerings. The research resulted in a description and taxonomy of the types of issues and factors arising in the hearings for students with significant disabilities from 2013 to 2015. This research shows almost no evidence of creative or holistic thinking in these due process decisions, and there was little evidence of parent advocacy for general education classes and creative options for their students with significant disabilities beyond existing offerings. The most unique placements to be found in public school settings for these students were in general education classes. Twenty-four students in this analysis were offered general education classes with their typically achieving peers. In general, though, for this unique group of students with significant disabilities, very few due process hearings could be found to have demonstrated creativity, or the consideration of holistic options, for such students. In general, in due process hearings for students with significant disabilities from 2013 to 2015, parents were overwhelming advocating for, and due process hearing officers were deciding among, options on the continuum of placements already traditionally considered for students with significant disabilities.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Leadership and Foundations



Date Submitted


Document Type





least restrictive environment, significant disability, severe disability, multiple disabilities, autism, intellectual disability, placement, setting, environment, due process hearings