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Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) in Special Education: Definition & Law

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  • 0:03 Least Restrictive Environment
  • 2:31 What the Law Says
  • 4:01 IDEA: A Range of Services
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Marin Carlson
This lesson explains the meaning of least restrictive environment in special education law and discuss what the implications of the law are for students and teachers.

Least Restrictive Environment

The concept of least restrictive environment (LRE) comes from the federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is one of six principles which set guidelines for the education of students within special education programs.

IDEA was first passed in 1975 and has since been reauthorized several times, most recently in 2004. It governs how special education services are provided by schools and public agencies for children from birth to 21 years old. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that all students with disabilities receive a 'free and appropriate public education' that gets them ready for higher education, for independent living, and for work.

The LRE section of IDEA states that special education students are to remain in educational environments with their non-identified peers (students not in the special education program) unless there is a compelling reason for them to be separated from those peers. The more time a student spends away from non-identified peers, the more restrictive the environment is considered to be.

The LRE text from Section 5A of IDEA 2004 states that:

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.

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