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Inclusion, Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), Mainstreaming

Parents and educators have questions about inclusion. Many believe that the IDEA requires schools to practice inclusion. In fact, the term "inclusion" is relatively new and is not included in the IDEA statute or regulations.

According to the IDEA's LRE or mainstreaming policy, school districts are required to educate students with disabilities in regular classrooms with their nondisabled peers, in the school they would attend if not disabled, to the maximum extent appropriate.

FAQs about LRE/ Inclusion

FAQs about Inclusion. Defines ''inclusion;' placement decisions; can decisions be revisited; how often? Can a teacher request that placement decision be reviewed? Who SHOULD be involved in decisions? How can teachers ensure that they are able to attend student's IEP meeting?

Q & A: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) Requirements of the IDEA
. Memorandum from U. S. Department of Education; answers frequently asked questions about LRE; inclusion; IEP and placement decisions; supplementary aids and services; continuum of alternative placements; factors to consider when making placement decisions.


IDEA Requirements: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) & FAPE. The IDEA includes two fundamental requirements: that the child receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). What does least restrictive environment mean? What is mainstreaming?

Isn't Inclusion a Right? Answers to a parent's question about placing children in self-contained classrooms.

Us v. Them: Protecting Our Children's Rights to Inclusion. Pam's advice to a teacher who asks how she can advocate and protect children's rights?

Special Education: NOT the Resource Room, the Classroom in the Trailer, or the Special School Across Town. "Special education" under IDEA is not a place or placement or a pre-packaged program. Special education is a "service for children rather than a place where such children are sent."

Parent Involvement in Placement Decisions. Decisions about placement are to be made after the child’s IEP is developed. Parents are members of any team that develops the IEP and decides on placement. Courts have held that schools may not predetermine placement. The placement decision must be made by the team.

Is There a Legal Definition of Self Contained Classroom? There is no legal definition of “self contained classroom” in the federal statute. The term is not in the the law. Your state special education regulations may have a definition. State education regulations often include a student-teacher ratio.

LRE: A Simplified Guide to Key Legal Requirements. Pacer Center Action information sheets revised 2009.

Information on Least Restrictive Environment. What do the terms "mainstreaming," "integration," "full inclusion," and "reverse mainstreaming" mean? Answers to LRE FAQs (revised 2005) from the CA Protection and Advocacy Inc. (CA-PAI).

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Board of Ed. of Hendrick Hudson Central School Dist. v. Rowley 458 U.S. 176 (1982). First decision in a special education case by the U. S. Supreme Court; defined "free appropriate public education" in the least restrictive environment.

Carter v. Florence County, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  While arguing that four months a year of progress in reading was appropriate, the district also argued that because Trident Academy was not on the State's "approved" list, Shannon's parents should not be reimbursed for the placement. The Court discusses the mainstreaming policy and "least restrictive environment". This ruling created a "split" among circuits that opened the door to an appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court in Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter

Hartmann v. Loudoun County, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, inclusion and LRE for child with autism (1997). 

L.B. and J.B. ex rel. K.B. v. Nebo UT School District
, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Parents of child with autism reimbursed for ABA therapy and private preschool which was LRE; also impartiality of hearing officer. (August 2004)

T. R. v. Kingwood Township (NJ) (3rd Cir. 2000) Clarifies requirement to provide a "free appropriate education (FAPE)" in the "least restrictive environment, meaningful benefit, continuum of placements.

Zachary Deal v. Hamilton Dept of Educ (TN Due Process Decision Aug 2001) Administrative law judge issues 45 page decision after a 27-day due process hearing; finds procedural safeguards and LRE violations; substantive violations; discusses credibility problems with school witnesses re: closed minds, evasiveness.

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Other Resources

Appropriate Academic Supports to Meet the Needs of All Students. National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) maintains that all students learn best in inclusive environments that implement high quality, science-based instruction. Problem-Solving Models in Inclusive Environments.

Considering LRE in Placement Decisions. Least restrictive environment,or LRE as it is more commonly called, is one of several vital components in the development of a child’s IEP and plays a critical role, influencing where a child spends his or her time at school, how services are provided, and the relationships the child develops within the school and community.

Benefits of Inclusion Education from KidsHealth.

What Percentage of Students with Disabilities are Education in Regular Classrooms? Fast Fact from National Center on Education Statistics.

Accessing the General Education Curriculum. Inclusion Considerations for Students with Disabilities from the IRIS Center.

Full Inclusion of All Students with Learning in the Regular Education Classroom from the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).

Special Education Charters Renew Inclusion Debate from EdWeek. What is the best educational environment for students with disabilities: Is it a specialized school or a more mainstream setting with general education students?

Inclusion News from Disability Scoop.com

Think Inclusive.com

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Last updated: 12/05/14

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