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What is the Least Restrictive Environment?

Too often children with disabilities are segregated and isolated in special classes where they have no interaction with their non-disabled peers. This occurs even though most of these children would benefit from learning by the side of their non-disabled peers. And their non-disabled peers would benefit from their inclusion in the general education classroom.

Under the IDEA, Congress created a statutory preference for educating children with disabilities in general education classrooms

In adopting the Individual's Disabilities Act (IDEA), Congress recognized the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment's right to avoid segregation and seclusion of students with disabilities.


Under the IDEA, school districts may not unnecessarily segregate a child from his non-disabled peers if that child’s IEP can be implemented using supplementary aids and services in a general education classroom.

Congress made the involvement and progress in the general curriculum a priority for children with special needs

The statute explains that “to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular education environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that the education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” 

Under the law there is only one LRE--the general education classroom

The IDEA requires placement for children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The LRE for all students is the general education classroom with access to their non-disabled peers. 

Whether a student needs a more restrictive placement is a question of appropriateness

If a more restrictive placement is required than the LRE, this is a question of whether the child’s placement offers a FAPE for the child. 


Before an IEP team rejects placement in the LRE, they should 

consider why they have determined that the nature and severity of the child’s disability is such that even with the use of supplementary aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily. 

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