The least restrictive environment (LRE) is part of the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA). Under § 1412 (a)(5) of U.S. Code Title 20, children with disabilities should be educated in general classes to the “maximum extent appropriate”.
To enforce LRE, a disabled student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team will decide the student’s present level of performance, and decide which level of LRE is most “appropriate” to the student.
There are different levels of LREs. From general education classroom with some supports, to mainstream (students take some classes outside of general classroom), special education class (students take most or all classes in special education class), and specialized program outside of your school district (students in a special education school), the time disabled students spend in general education classroom is getting less. If the IEP, through thorough consideration, decides that the specialized program outside of the school district is the only appropriate option, the student will spend no time in a general classroom. Check out this information brief for more information about LRE.
[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]