What Does a Disabled Child’s Right to be Educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) Mean?

Parents of kids with disabilities in public schools often hear from the districts the phrase the Least Restrictive Environment or sometimes they use the acronym LRE. Parents often don’t understand what that means. What it means is your child has a right to be educated to the greatest extent appropriate along with general education students. Put another way, a special education student has a right to as much exposure as possible to the general education students and the general education social environment. It’s a continuum. You start with the idea that the child with special needs should be educated in his neighborhood school just as he would if he was not disabled, and he should go to the same classroom as he normally would have gone had he not been disabled.

Then from there you move to what they call More Restrictive Environments meaning less exposure to regular education kids. Maybe for this particular child it wouldn’t be appropriate to be in that particular classroom and he might need at least some time where he gets pulled out of that classroom and placed in a classroom with other children with special needs. That would be more restrictive than just being educated in his original classroom. It goes from there. You might get them next to a fully self-contained class where everybody in the class is in the special needs class for more time of the day, maybe all of the day. Maybe all of the day but the child gets to go to recess and art and other kinds of special classes with the general education kids; maybe to the point where he’s not going to go to those classes.

Go further down the continuum to now he has to go to a different school building; maybe he is placed in a private school. Those are all considered more and more restrictive as compared to the original neighborhood school where he would normally go to school if he had not been disabled. The legal standard for moving a child to what is the least restrictive environment for him is the classroom that is appropriate for him in which he can make meaningful progress with all the proper supports. You assume the child is getting all the proper supports and he can make meaningful educational progress in that setting. If so, you cannot move him to a more restrictive environment. The only exception is if having him in that classroom is so disruptive to the rest of the class that they can’t be educated. That’s basically it. Your child has a right to be with the community as much as possible, to be raised as much as possible like he would be had he not been disabled.

The law firm of Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, P.C., is composed of experienced education attorneys throughout the states of New Jersey and Delaware. Please contact the office for a free initial consultation and get any questions answered regarding your specific case.