LRE Least Restrictive Environment Forum

Read two colleagues commons and do respond to each of them:

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First colleagues: The chapter highlighted some very crucial points regarding how challenging imposing the LRE mandate can be in schools. Even more so, the chapter highlighted how it can be difficult for the courts to deliberate a clear decision on litigation involving LRE. One of the challenges the school faces has to do with the resources needed to curate a LRE. The school can often find itself in contention with a parent over what the least restrictive environment looks like for the student. The school might struggle to create a least restrictive environment for a child. This can be tricky because no matter the reason: “A school district may not refuse to place a child in an LRE because it lacks the appropriate placement option…Moreover, if gaps in the continuum exist within a school district, the district must fill them through whatever means required.” (Yell, 2016). This necessity to fulfill the mandate can be a struggle. The school must make a lot of decisions and insightful choices to ensure an LRE is reached. The book does do a nice job of countering that if a school does decide that a LRE cannot be reached in its realm, it can provide placement outside of its borders to an environment that would indeed be least restrictive for the student. This would allow for the school to lawfully navigate such an issue. Schools also may have difficulty maintaining an LRE if the student’s behavior is extremely maladaptive and thus causing a significant impediment on the learning of other students. This is why there are provisions within the law that anticipates to a degree such cases. The mandate states: “that it is a presumptive right of all students with disabilities to be educated with students without disabilities”, this however can be refuted because “the principal sets forth a general rule of conduct but allows it to be rebutted when integration is not appropriate for a student.” (Yell, 2016). These rights by both parties attempts to strike a balance, allowing the principal to make final calls as to whether a space is appropriate even after aides and other services have been used within the classroom.

There were a number of things that I found surprising within this chapter. I think it is one of the clearer examples of how the differ circuits interact with each other, as demonstrated with which circuit follows which LRE test. It is also a point of interest that there was the case Clyde L. v. Puyallup School District (1994). Though the case was fascinating in how it depicted the problem of behavior limiting the ability to present and LRE, what Yell found most interesting came at the end of the trial, where a footnote in the judge’s opinion: “criticized the attorney for the plaintiffs for “hardball tactics” and counterproductive dealings with the school district.” (Yell, 2016). Even though the plaintiffs could reverse lower court decision, the court of appeals made the effort to raise the larger implications of this case, and the adverse effect that litigation could have on a student. By not working together with schools and proceeding further through the court systems, everyone is a loser. I think that it was in a radical way that this point was made, but I think that this just makes it all that much more poignant. I also think it is interesting that no case involving LRE have ever made it to the level of the Supreme Courts. Because of this I think there is all these variations of the test, which can cause a variety of results between the different circuit courts. I feel that if a case were to make it to the level of the supreme court, the court would have to choose from one of the four tests, which would lead them to either create a list that combines all four, or chose the most superiors of the tests.


Yell M.L. The law and special education. (2016), Boston, MA. Pearson.

Second colleagues:

  • What challenges does LRE pose for schools? How might schools (legally) address those challenges?

“To ensure that students with disabilities are educated in the LRE that is most appropriate for their individual needs, the IDEA requires that school districts have a range or continuum of alternative placement options to meet their needs.” (Yell, 2016) This can be a tall order for schools, particularly those in financially challenged districts and/or those with extraordinary needs. The continuum includes general education curriculum as mandated by the state, special education services which may include 1:1 or 1:many paraprofessional support, resource rooms, counseling services, behaviorists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, potentially outside consultation services for unique cases, school psychologists, testing services, nurses, facilities for quiet spaces, handicap accessible accommodations, etc, etc.. The more students with these, the more expense associated; likewise, the more complex the caseload of students, the more services and expense. If a school has both volume and complexity, this can be an enormous ask, particularly if they are not a wealthy district since the federal government only subsidizes a percentage of these services through Medicaid. If they have either volume or complexity, it is still a large task as in a very small school that may have a need for extensive handicap and/or medical services…these services are expensive and challenging.

Additionally, determining the LRE for each individual student can be challenging. There is not a specific definition for LRE and it is individualized based on student need. Even different parts of the country have different “tests” for LRE. Yell shared the 4 tests: Roncker (which the 6th & 8th Circuits abide by), Daniel (2, 3, 5, 10 & 11th Circuits use), and Rachel (9th Circuit), Devries/Hartmann (used by the 4th Circuit). Then there is our First Circuit and the Seventh Circuit who believe that “because each student’s education situation is unique, they found it unnecessary to adopt a formal test to apply when deciding LRE cases” (Yell, 2016; pg 254)).

I believe the key to addressing the complexity of LRE is to treat each student individually, begin in the general education environment if at all possible, try interventions and supports with efficacy, and monitor the progress of the student with those supports; add/change supports as needed, when the team has attempted a variety of supports without success, then the next logical step is to move to a more restrictive. If we are doing these as steps, with a good-faith effort and in collaboration with the parents and other members of the team, I believe we will avoid most legal issues.

  • What surprised you about LRE?

I was surprised the Supreme Court has not heard a case on LRE, leaving it to the various regional Circuits to create case law and tests to guide their regions. I don’t think the different tests are wildly different from each other and all seem to honor the intention, so I expect that is why the Supreme Court has not yet intervened. That said, given there seems to be a lot of litigation surrounding LRE, they may choose to hear a case and provide more guidance at the federal level as they have in other areas, like FAPE.

I was also pleased to learn of the following clarification by Yell, “legislation and litigation regarding LRE and FAPE indicate that the school’s primary obligation is to provide the student with disabilities a FAPE” (pg 256). They indicate that the LRE principle is secondary. This could be helpful to keep in mind in a particularly complex case.