School Districts’ Responsibilities to Provide Students with Disabilities with Specially-Designed Instruction and Related Services in the Least Restrictive Environment
Students with disabilities have a fundamental right to receive their special education supports in a classroom and setting that, to the maximum extent appropriate, includes students without disabilities. Under federal law, the presumption is that students with disabilities will attend the same schools they would have attended if they did not have disabilities and that removal or restriction from their regular schools and classrooms can only occur for reasons related to the student’s disability when the student’s individualized education program (IEP) cannot be satisfactorily implemented in that setting, even with the use of supplementary aids and services.
Least restrictive environment (LRE) means that placement of students with disabilities in special classes, separate schools or other removal from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that, even with the use of supplementary aids and services, education cannot be satisfactorily achieved.
Questions regarding LRE may be directed to the Office of Special Education’s Policy Unit at (518) 473-2878 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Federal law requires that each public agency ensure that a continuum of alternative placements is available to meet the needs of students with disabilities for special education and related services. The continuum must include instruction in general education classrooms, special classes, special schools, home instruction and instruction in hospitals and institutions; and must make provision for supplementary services (such as resource room or itinerant instruction) to be provided in conjunction with the student’s regular class placement.
In order for school districts to ensure that their students with disabilities are receiving their special education services in the LRE, the district must first ensure that each student with a disability has access to the full continuum of special education programs and services, as required by federal and State law and regulation.
LRE means that placement of students with disabilities in special classes, separate schools or other removal from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that, even with the use of supplementary aids and services, education cannot be satisfactorily achieved. The placement of an individual student with a disability in the LRE must:
- provide the special education needed by the student;
- provide for education of the student to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the student with other students who do not have disabilities; and
- be as close as possible to the student's home.
The individualized education programs (IEPs) of students with disabilities must be developed in conformity with the LRE requirements as follows:
- placement must be based on the student’s IEP and determined at least annually;
- placement must be as close as possible to the student’s home, and unless the student’s IEP requires some other arrangement, the student must be educated in the school he or she would have attended if not disabled;
- in selecting the LRE, consideration must be given to any potential harmful effect on the student or on the quality of services that he or she needs; and
- a student with a disability must not be removed from education in age- appropriate regular classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general education curriculum.
Each student’s placement must be determined by the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) or Committee on Special Education (CSE) at least annually. The placement recommendation should be the last recommendation made at the meeting based on the student’s needs, goals, and recommended services and in consideration of the LRE factors identified above.
Each school district must ensure that the Committees on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) and Committees on Special Education (CSE), including parents, understand their responsibilities for LRE determinations and that each annual review include consideration of special education services and supplementary supports and services that would support the student to receive education services in the student’s regular school and in age appropriate general education classrooms.
The LRE Implementation Policy of the Board of Regents established that all students with disabilities must have equal access to a high-quality program based on their individual needs and abilities and designed to enable them to achieve the desired learning results established for all students. This policy applies to the full continuum of placements where students with disabilities may receive their special education supports and services.
Each school district should assess and address the extent to which each of their schools provides a high-quality inclusive setting. High-quality inclusive setting means:
- Instruction and configuration of classrooms and activities include both students with and without disabilities;
- Students with disabilities are held to high expectations for achievement;
- Special education and general education teachers intentionally plan teaching lessons to promote the participation and progress of students with disabilities in learning and social activities;
- Individualized accommodations, supports and specially-designed instruction are provided to students with disabilities to participate and progress in regular education classes and activities; and
- Evidence-based services and supports are used to foster the cognitive, communication, physical, behavioral and social-emotional development of students with disabilities.
U.S. Department of Education policy statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs
Sec. 300.115 Continuum of Alternative Placements
Promoting Inclusion of Students with Disabilities
Continuum of Services for School Age Students with Disabilities
Universal Prekindergarten Program: An Ideal Setting for the Integration of Preschool Students with Disabilities
Guide to Quality IEP Development
Special Education Quality Assurance Regional Offices