Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
Authorities: 20 U.S.C. §§ 1412, 1414; 34 C.F.R. Part 300; Texas Education Code; 19 T.A.C. Chapter 89; Fifth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals; Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
The LEA must ensure 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 nondisabled.
The LEA must ensure that 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.
In providing or arranging for the provision of nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, the LEA must ensure that each child with a disability participates with nondisabled children in the extracurricular services and activities to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the child.
34 CFR 300.101(a)(b); 300.102(a)(1); 300.116; OSEP Policy Memo 8-23
The LEA must provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the LRE to preschool-aged children even if the LEA does not provide free preschool programs to all preschool-aged children:
- LEAs that do not operate preschool programs for nondisabled preschool children may use some alternative methods for meeting the LRE requirements including:
- Providing opportunities for the participation (even part-time) of preschool children with disabilities in other preschool programs operated by public agencies (such as Head Start);
- Placing children with disabilities in private school programs for nondisabled preschool children or private school preschool programs that integrate children with disabilities and non-disabled children; and
- Locating classes for preschool children with disabilities in regular elementary schools;
- LEAs are not required to initiate preschool programs solely to satisfy the requirements regarding placement in the LRE;
- LEAs are not required to establish extensive contract programs with private schools which serve both children with disabilities and children without disabling conditions solely to implement LRE requirements; and
- The use of facilities which are separate or otherwise solely devoted to children with disabilities is generally permissible only when necessary to meet an individual child's specific needs and should not be the only option available.
Factors for Consideration
34 CFR 300.116(e); Daniel RR v SBOE (5th Cir.1989)
The ARD committee must determine whether education in the regular classroom, with the use of supplementary aids and services, can be achieved satisfactorily by considering the following factors:
- Whether the LEA provided supplementary aids and services;
- Whether the LEA modified the regular education program:
- A child with a disability may not be removed from education in age-appropriate regular classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general curriculum;
- Whether the efforts to modify and supplement regular education were sufficient:
- The LEA need not provide every conceivable supplementary aid or service to assist the child;
- The IDEA does not require regular education instructors to devote all or most of their time to one disabled child or to modify the regular education program beyond recognition;
- Whether the child will receive an educational benefit from regular education (including nonacademic benefit);
- The child's overall educational experience in the mainstreamed environment, balancing the benefits of regular and special education for the individual child:
- For example, a child may be able to absorb only a minimal amount of the regular education program, but may benefit enormously from the language models that his or her nondisabled peers provide (in such a case, the benefit that the child receives from mainstreaming may tip the balance in favor of mainstreaming); and
- The effect the disabled child's presence has on the regular classroom, and thus, on the education that the other children are receiving.
If the ARD committee determines that education in the regular classroom cannot be achieved satisfactorily, then the ARD committee must determine whether the child has been mainstreamed to the maximum extent appropriate:
- The IDEA and its regulations do not contemplate an all-or-nothing educational system in which disabled children attend either regular or special education;
- The IDEA and its regulations require LEAs to offer a continuum of services; and
- The LEA must take intermediate steps where appropriate, such as placing the child in regular education for some academic classes only, or providing interaction with nondisabled children during lunch and recess.
In selecting the LRE, the ARD committee must consider any potential harmful effect:
- On the child; or
- On the quality of services that the child needs.
34 CFR 300.116(b)(1)(2); 300.320(a)(4)(ii-iii)(5); 20 USC 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(v); TAC 89.1075(d)
The ARD committee must determine the child's placement.
The ARD committee's placement decision must be based on the child's IEP in compliance with the SUPPLEMENTARY guidelines.
The ARD committee must provide an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will participate with nondisabled children:
- In the regular class;
- In the general curriculum; and
- In extracurricular and other nonacademic activities.
The ARD committee must determine the appropriate length of school day:
- Children with disabilities must have available an instructional day commensurate with that of children without disabilities.
34 CFR 300.115(a)(b); TAC 89.63(c); 89.1075(d); 89.1080
The LEA must ensure that a continuum of alternative placements is available to meet the needs of children with disabilities for special education and related services.
The ARD committee must specify the appropriate instructional arrangement/setting:
- Hospital class;
- Speech therapy;
- Resource room/services;
- Self-contained (mild, moderate, or severe);
- Off home campus;
- Nonpublic day school;
- Vocational adjustment class/program;
- State school for persons with mental retardation; or
- Residential care and treatment facility (not LEA resident).
Subject to ARD committee recommendations, a student must be eligible for consideration for the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf, if:
- Even with recommended amplification, the student has an auditory impairment, which:
- Severely impairs processing linguistic information through hearing; and
- Adversely affects educational performance.
Children Residing in a Residential Facility
The ARD committee's educational placement determination must be individualized, based on need, and not made on a categorical basis, such as the disability or residence in the residential facility.
The ARD committee must not determine educational placement on the basis of what is most convenient to the LEA or residential facility.
The ARD committee must determine the appropriate educational placement for the child, considering:
- All available information regarding the educational needs of the student;
- Non-educational needs that may restrict the ability of the LEA to serve the child on a public school campus or other instructional setting:
- Which could include the child's health and safety (e.g. substance abuse); and/or
- The child's placement in a restrictive residential facility program (e.g., juvenile incarceration or restrictive court-ordered placements).
- When educational services will be provided at the residential facility, the ARD committee must determine appropriate educational space as follows:
- Whether space available at the residential facility is appropriate for the provision of a FAPE based on the individual child's needs and the residential facility's available space; or
- If the ARD committee or residential facility determines that the residential facility has no appropriate available space, identify alternative locations for providing educational services.
Residential Placement at Public Expense
When making a residential educational placement, the ARD committee must:
- List the services which the LEA is unable to provide and which the facility will provide;
- Establish criteria and estimated timelines for the child's return to the LEA;
- Verify residential placement is needed;
- Verify the placement is the LRE for the child;
- Comply with the Supplementary Aides and Services, Special Education, Related
Services framework when selecting the facility.
- Comply with the Use of Funds for Contract Services Including Residential Placements framework.
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) and Texas School for the Deaf (TSD)
TAC 89.1085(c)(d); 89.1090; TEC 30.057(a)(2)
When placing the student at the TSBVI or TSD, the ARD committee must:
- List those services in the child's individualized education program (IEP) which the LEA cannot appropriately provide in a local program and which the TSBVI or the TSD can appropriately provide;
- Include in the child's IEP the criteria and estimated time lines for returning the child to the resident LEA; and
- Determine whether it is necessary for the safety of the child:
- For an adult to accompany the child when transporting the child at the beginning and end of the term for regularly scheduled school holidays when children are expected to leave the residential campus; and
- If the child must be accompanied, designate the adult to accompany the child.
When placing a child at the TSBVI or TSD, the LEA may make an on-site visit to verify that the TSBVI or the TSD can and will offer the services listed in the individual child's IEP and to ensure that the school offers an appropriate educational program for the child.
For children placed by their parents or legal guardians at the TSD, the TSD shall be responsible for assuring that a FAPE is provided to the child at the TSD.