The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) section 1412-5 defines the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) in the following way:
In General, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public and private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children from the regular education 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.
Wrightslaw further states “The law takes a commonsense approach to this issue: children with disabilities should be educated with children who are not disabled “to the maximum extent appropriate”.” (Wrightslaw, 2ed, 2011). The question that then remains is who defines “maximum extent appropriate”? Things are not so clear in this area.
Parents and education professionals will disagree on the definition of “maximum extent appropriate”. The key to successful planning and implementation of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) would be a joint effort to determine what the definition is and understand going into the process what markers will be followed to determine success of the LRE.
Is it possible for education professionals and parents to come to an agreement regarding the definition of LRE? The answer should be yes. Not only are the educational rights of the child in question at risk, but the educational rights of their classmates are at risk as well. LRE’s are unique to each students situation. Without understanding fully, the disability that the student has, education professionals and parents will both do a disservice to the child’s educational rights. It would be beneficial to include medical personnel on the IEP team.
Wright, Pam & Pete, 2011 Wrightslaw – From Emotions to Advocacy 2nd Ed.