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Key Definitions in IDEA | Defining and Understanding LRE

Key Definitions in IDEA | Defining and Understanding LRE

A reference sheet for Parent Centers from the
Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR)

June 2017

This reference list is designed to accompany
CPIR’s Brief for Parent Centers on Free Appropriate Public Education and the Dear Colleague Letter on FAPE issued by OSEP on November 16, 2015. You can use the reference list in staff or board training, to refresh or deepen your understanding of what key terms in IDEA mean, and to find easy-to-read summaries about these terms on CPIR’s site in English and Spanish.

The online version of the reference list presents one term or acronym at a time. This page focuses on the acronym LRE and what it means.  (Note: To print out or share the ENTIRE reference list as one Word or PDF file, use the links at the very top of this page.)


Acronym stands for… | Least restrictive environment

Importance of LRE to FAPE | IDEA does not define “least restrictive environment” in its definitions section. However, it requires that each student receive special education and related services in the “least restrictive environment” and describes what this means. These provisions appear in the final Part B regulations at §§300.114 through 300.120, as part of IDEA’s provisions addressing “State Eligibility.” The core of IDEA’s LRE provisions are at §300.114, cited below.

§300.114 LRE requirements.

(a) General. (1) Except as provided in §300.324(d)(2) (regarding children with disabilities in adult prisons), the State must have in effect policies and procedures to ensure that public agencies in the State meet the LRE requirements of this section and §§ 300.115 through 300.120.

(2) Each public agency must ensure that—

(i) 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; and

(ii) Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if  the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

(b) Additional requirement—State funding mechanism—(1) General. (i) A State funding mechanism must not result in placements that violate the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section; and

(ii) A State must not use a funding mechanism by which the State distributes funds on the basis of the type of setting in which a child is served that will result in the failure to provide a child with a disability FAPE according to the unique needs of the child, as described in the child’s IEP.

(2) Assurance. If the State does not have policies and procedures to ensure compliance with paragraph (b)(1) of this section, the State must provide the Secretary an assurance that the State will revise the funding mechanism as soon as feasible to ensure that the mechanism does not result in placements that violate that paragraph.

Unofficial Definition of LRE in Spanish

For more information on LRE | CPIR offers a suite of information about LRE and its role in determining children’s placement (where they will receive FAPE and needed special education and related services). The suite includes a short-and-sweet overview; a detailed summary of the interplay between LRE, FAPE, and placement; how school disciplinary actions can affect a child’s placement; and training materials on making placement decisions in keeping with IDEA’s LRE provisions.

English suite begins at |
Spanish |

Training module on LRE Decision Making

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**Highly Rated Resource!  This resource was reviewed by 3-member panels of Parent Center staff working independently from one another to rate the quality, relevance, and usefulness of CPIR resources. This resource was found to be of “High Quality, High Relevance, High Usefulness” to Parent Centers.

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FAPE   |   IDEA  |   IEP   |   LRE (You’re already here)

Child with a disability

Individualized Education Program

Related services

Special education

Supplementary aids and services

SOURCE ARTICLE: Center for Parent Information and Resources