Least Restrictive Environment

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) 

Districts have an obligation to ensure students with IEPs are educated in the least restrictive environment. On the LRE continuum, the IDEA presumes general education to be the LRE for all students. Therefore, IEP Teams must consider the LRE when determining appropriate programs and services. Districts must ensure, and IEP Teams must consider, the following: 

  1. To the maximum extent appropriate students with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with students who are nondisabled. 
  2. Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of students with disabilities from the regular education environment occurs only if the nature and severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be satisfactorily achieved. 

LRE can be determined for each part of the student’s day and may vary from subject to subject, depending on what is determined least restrictive by the IEP Team. However, the IDEA is very clear that a student with a disability is not to be removed from education in age-appropriate regular classrooms solely because of modifications that are needed in the general education curriculum. Nonacademic and extracurricular activities must also be included in LRE considerations for each student. It is important that IEP Teams understand the LRE described in one IEP in no way predicts the LRE for future IEPs. 

The LRE provisions require that a student’s placement is determined annually, is based on the student’s needs as described in the IEP and is close as possible to the student’s home. Further, the student must be educated in the school that the student would attend if the student did not have a disability, unless the student’s IEP requires some other arrangement. These provisions make it clear that IEP Teams must consider a student’s LRE annually to the extent that general education in the school nearest to the student’s home is where the annual LRE discussion starts. The LRE discussion should not start with the student’s current placement.