Does the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) mean the general education classroom?

Published: June 23rd, 2016

Not necessarily. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to place students in the LRE. LRE means that, to the maximum extent appropriate, schools must educate students with disabilities in the regular classroom with appropriate aids and supports, referred to as “supplementary aids and services,” along with their nondisabled peers in the school they would attend if not disabled, unless a student’s individualized education program (IEP) requires some other arrangement. This requires an individualized inquiry into the unique educational needs of each student with a disability in determining the possible range of aids and supports that are needed to facilitate the student’s placement in the regular educational environment before considering a more restrictive placement. [U.S. Department of Education, OSEP Memorandum 95-9 (November 23, 1994)] Although there is a strong preference for educating a child in the regular classroom, this may not always be the LRE. For example, a deaf student who communicates only with sign language may be unable to communicate easily or directly with hearing peers in the general education classroom/environment. In this case, a more restrictive environment on the continuum of possible placements, say a placement at a special school for the deaf, may actually be less restrictive for this child.