Continuum of Placement Blog

October 4, 2022 by Taylor Giordullo

What is the Least Restrictive Environment?

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is the legal requirement that children with disabilities be educated in the same environment as children without disabilities whenever possible.

Children with disabilities should only be removed from a regular educational environment if the nature of their disability or services makes it so their needs cannot be adequately addressed in the general education environment.

What is the Continuum of Placement?

The Continuum of Placement is a continuum of alternative placements available to meet unique special educational needs of children with disabilities. These placements range from less restrictive (instruction in general education classes) to more restrictive (special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in institutions).

Schools must provide supplementary services to children with disabilities in order to help them stay in a general educational environment as much as possible. Supplemental services can include specialized instruction, academic accommodations and modifications, behavior plans, nurses, and academic aids.

Placement Decisions

Placement decisions are made by a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. The IEP team must use expertise and judgment to make a placement decision that is best for the student.

As discussed, a school is required to provide the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for a student with a disability. However, schools are also required to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Essentially, this means that if the education is no longer “appropriate” at a student’s placement, then they need to be moved to another placement on the continuum.

A child with a disability should always be at the point on the continuum that is the LRE, but still provides them with a FAPE. For example, if a student needs additional reading or math help, but can otherwise participate in the general education environment, that student would most likely remain in the general education classroom with pull-outs for reading or math. However, if a student needs more support than can be provided in the general education environment, FAPE requires that the school move the student to a more restrictive placement on the continuum.

If you are seeking a more restrictive placement, such as placement in a separate school or classroom, you will need to show that FAPE is not being provided at the current setting. If you are seeking a less restrictive placement, such as a placement in a general education classroom, you will have to show the current placement is not the student’s LRE.

In Ohio, a school cannot move a student to a more or less restrictive placement without parent permission. Regarding placement, if a child has to move to a more restrictive educational environment, the goal is always to return the child to a less restrictive placement as soon as possible.

The most important thing to remember is that a student’s placement is decided based on their unique educational needs as outlined in their IEP. Placement should not be decided based on administrative convenience for the school.

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