Welcome to another ABC post…today is the Letter L, and L is for LRE. LRE stands for Least Restrictive Environment and is an essential component of IDEA, IEPs and Special Education. It is one of the 6 principles of Special Education.
So what does it mean for you and your child?
First, let’s take a look at the actual wording from the Dept of Education:
(5) Least restrictive environment.–
(A) In general.–To 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 or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
(B) Additional requirement.–
(i) In general.–A State funding mechanism shall not result in placements that violate the requirements of subparagraph (A), and a State shall not use a funding mechanism by which the State distributes funds on the basis of the type of setting in which a child is served that will result in the failure to provide a child with a disability a free appropriate public education according to the unique needs of the child as described in the child’s IEP.
(ii) Assurance.–If the State does not have policies and procedures to ensure compliance with clause (i), the State shall provide the Secretary an assurance that the State will revise the funding mechanism as soon as feasible to ensure that such mechanism does not result in such placements.
Well, that sounds pretty self explanatory to me. Must be educated in least restrictive environment to maximum extent possible, and you cannot use budget issues as an excuse not to do it!
Of course in day to day practice, this doesn’t always happen. We have intellectually normal kids tossed into “life skills” all the time. Probably one of the most common scenarios I see is the school pushing for a self-contained classroom or ‘special school’ in lieu of a 1:1 aide. That can go the other way too. A 1:1 aide can be a very restrictive environment–particularly for a child struggling with social skills and making friends. It’s not very “cool” to have a grown adult hanging around you all day, every day. So in working with your child, weigh all the options. Sometimes a special school with a smaller class size and smaller environment, where they can navigate on their own without a 1:1 is less restrictive than having a 1:1 in the regular school setting.
I don’t have much else to say about this topic. Many parents are unaware of this right or principle of special education. There are varying degrees of restrictiveness. Least restrictive is the general education setting. Then there is pull out, self contained classrooms, special schools, a 1:1 aide, home bound and hospital settings. Some federal districts have also ruled that LRE applies to ALL programming, including ESY. However, districts cannot require non-disabled children to attend ESY so that a disabled child has non-disabled peers there. This may help a parent in the event that they are looking for a different summer ESY program than what the district is offering.
Remember, special education is a program, not a place. Special education can take place any where, and it’s the law that the child receive the appropriate education in the least restrictive setting. If you have any questions, contact an advocate or a special education attorney.
LRE: What you need to know (from Understood)
Q & A on LRE (from Wrightslaw)