Dr. Lydia Brill-School Psychologist

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Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and Educational Placement for Students 
with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

22 Pa. Code § 14.102 (a) (2) (xxiv)
DATE OF ISSUE:  July 1, 2002 
DATE OF REVIEW:  January 30, 2009
October, 1, 2006 (formerly BEC 22 Pa. Code §342.42(c)) 
This Basic Education Circular updates the policy of the Pennsylvania 
Department of Education (PDE) on least restrictive environment and 
educational placement for students with Individualized Education Programs 
(IEPs).  This policy is consistent with IDEA 2004, the Third Circuit decision 
in Oberti v. Board of Education (1992), and the Gaskin v. Pennsylvania 
Settlement Agreement (2005).  This Basic Education Circular is primarily 
directed at school-age students with disabilities.  Although components of 
this BEC apply as well to preschool-age children, PDE is developing specific 
guidance for preschool-age children.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2004 (also known as the 
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act), requires …(1) That 
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 non-disabled; and (2) That 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. [20 USC 
1412 Section 612 (a) (5), and its implementing regulation found at 34 C.F.R. 
This requirement has been part of disability education law for over thirty 
years and is often referred to as the “Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) 
mandate.”  By law, it is the IEP team that decides on the educational 
placement for an individual student.  The law and PDE policy require that 
each local education agency and IEP team make educational placement decisions 
based on the general principles outlined below. 
General Principles
IEP teams are required to adhere to the following when making educational 
placement decisions:
     1. A Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) must be provided to
        every student with an IEP; moreover, FAPE must be delivered in the
        LRE as per the IEP team.
     2. Students will not be removed from regular education classrooms merely
        because of the severity of their disabilities;
     3. When students with disabilities, including students with significant
        cognitive disabilities, need specially designed instruction or other
        supplementary aids and services to benefit from participating in
        regular education classrooms, as required in their IEP, local  
        education agencies are obliged to ensure that those services are
     4. IEP teams must determine whether the goals in the student’s IEP can
        be implemented in regular education classrooms with supplementary
        aids and services before considering removal from the regular
        education classroom;
     5. School districts will consider the full range of supplementary aids
        and services in regular education classrooms, based on peer-reviewed 
        research to the extent practicable, including modification of
        curriculum content, before contemplating placement in a more
        restrictive setting.
To determine whether a child with disabilities can be educated satisfactorily 
in a regular education classroom with supplementary aids and services, the 
following factors must be considered and addressed in the IEP:  
     1. What efforts have been made to accommodate the child in the regular 
         classroom and with what outcome(s); 
     2. What additional efforts (i.e. supplementary aids and services) in the 
         regular classroom are possible; 
     3. What are the educational benefits available to the child in the
        regular classroom, with the use of appropriate supplementary aids and
        services; and
     4. Are there possible significant and negative effects of the child’s
        inclusion on the other students in the class?¹ 
The presumption is that IEP teams begin placement discussions with a 
consideration of the regular education classroom and the supplementary aids 
and services that are needed to enable a student with a disability to benefit 
from educational services.  Benefit from educational services is measured by 
progress toward the goals and objectives of the student’s IEP, not by mastery 
of the general education curriculum, and is not limited to academic progress 
alone; therefore, special education placement in a more restrictive 
environment cannot be justified solely on the basis that the child might make 
greater academic progress outside the regular education environment.  
The law and PDE policy favor education with non-disabled peers; however, 
inclusion or education with non-disabled peers is not a foregone conclusion; 
such a decision remains exclusively with the IEP team as they consider FAPE.  
For some students, the IEP team may conclude that a more specialized setting 
is necessary for the delivery of FAPE.  For example, the IEP team for a 
student who is deaf may decide that the least restrictive environment and 
appropriate placement for that student is a “school for the deaf” or an IEP 
team for a student with autism may decide that an autistic support classroom 
where specific interventions may be provided is the least restrictive 
environment and is necessary to implement the IEP.  An IEP team may choose a 
more specialized setting if:
     1. The student will receive greater benefit from education in a
        specialized setting than in a regular class.   
     2. He or she is so disruptive as to significantly impair the education
        of other students in the class; or
     3. The cost of implementing a given student’s IEP in the regular
        classroom will significantly affect other children in the LEA.
If, after considering these factors, an IEP team determines that the student 
needs to be educated in a more specialized setting², the school is required 
to include the child in school programs with non-disabled children to the 
maximum extent appropriate.  These may include but are not limited to extra 
curricular activities, assembly programs, recess, lunch, homeroom, etc.  Note 
that a student is not required to “try out” each level of LRE and “fail” 
before the student moves to a more specialized setting (US Department of 
Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Memorandum #95-9, 21 IDELR 
1152 (November 23, 1994)).
Additionally, PDE policy on educational placement requires that special 
education students who are also entitled to gifted support under Chapter 16, 
Special Education for Gifted Students, have a single individualized education 
plan, (i.e. single plan), incorporating all specially designed instruction, 
accommodations or other support identified by the IEP team.  Likewise, if a 
student has a Service Agreement under 22 Pa. Code, Chapter 15 and also needs 
gifted support, such accommodations and support will be written in a single 
Implications for School Personnel
Experience proves that contact with non-disabled peers can have positive 
social effects both on children with disabilities and their non-disabled 
classmates.  Additionally, education with non-disabled peers can increase 
learning for students with IEPs.  For many, the result is that children with 
disabilities learn more in inclusive environments than in segregated or more 
specialized settings.  
Terminology surrounding education in the least restrictive environment has 
evolved over time.  Terms such as mainstreaming, integration and inclusion 
have been used.  The term inclusion implies more than physical proximity to 
non-disabled peers; it encompasses full participation and equality within a 
group, leading to a sense of belonging within the community at large.  
Implications for School Leaders
     o Provide opportunities for teachers to participate in professional
       development and to become aware of peer-reviewed and research-based
       practices that can be used to support students in regular classroom
     o Ensure that:
           .   Program and placement decisions are based on student
               strengths, potential and needs;
           .   IEP teams consider the regular classroom with supplementary
               aids and services before considering a more restrictive
           .   Staff is aware of this policy on Least Restrictive Environment.
           .   Supportive team structures are in place to enable general
               education teachers to effectively educate students with IEPs
               in their regular classroom as appropriate; 
           .   IEP teams use the most current IEP format;³
           .   Educational placement decisions are made in the proper IEP
               sequence, which is:
                    1. Initial eligibility decision;
                    2. Determine FAPE and design the program (i.e. IEP);
                    3. Determine whether FAPE can be delivered in the regular
                       classroom with the use of supplementary aids and
                    4. If the answer to step #3 is “no,” then, move to the
                        next step along the continuum of placement options to
                       determine where FAPE can be delivered;
           .   IEP teams are using a single plan for students who are
               identified under both IDEA and Chapter 16; and
           .   Correct LRE data is entered into the Penn Data system; data on 
               educational placement will be used to identify school
               districts for on-site monitoring according to the Gaskin v.
               Pennsylvania Settlement Agreement. 
Implications for Teachers and Pupil Personnel Staff
          o Be familiar with a wide array of supplementary aids and service.4 
          o Know the proper IEP decision making sequence (see above).
          o Consider the whole range of supplementary aids and services when 
             making placement decisions.
          o Understand that modifications to the regular curriculum may be an 
            appropriate means of delivering educational benefit within the
            regular classroom.
          o Address services needed for a student identified under IDEA and
            Chapter 16 in a single plan.  Likewise address support and 
            accommodations in a single plan for those students identified
            under Chapter 15 and Chapter 16. 
          o Be clear about the supports you need in order to implement any
            given student’s IEP within your regular classroom.
          o Be familiar with the continuum of placement options.  
Implications for LEAs in Meeting State Targets in the State Performance Plan  
Under IDEA 2004, each state must establish LRE targets that are both rigorous 
and measurable and report such progress toward these targets annually to US 
Department of Education and to the public.  PDE gathers data from each LEA to 
measure progress toward the targets. These targets are established in three 
categories of educational placement:
          o Students outside the regular classroom less than 21% of the
            school day.
          o Students outside the regular classroom more than 60% of the
            school day.
          o Students outside the school district.
More information on the State Performance Plan and Pennsylvania’s targets is 
available at www.pde.state.pa.us; click on Pre K-12; then Special Education; 
then on Penn Data for Special Education Data Summary.
In the future, the Department will conduct a series of activities regarding 
least restrictive environment requirements of IDEA 2004.  These activities 
include (1) monitoring LRE requirements, (2) increased professional 
development for school personnel, (3) the development of materials to be 
displayed in all public schools that show “all children are welcome,” (4) 
clarification on the use of supplementary aids and services in the regular 
classroom and (5) building the capacity of all public schools to provide such 
aids and services. 
¹"A handicapped child who merely requires more teacher attention than most 
other children is not likely to be so disruptive as to significantly impair 
the education of other children,"[Greer].
²Examples of more specialized settings include but are not limited to: a 
student receiving learning support for one period a day in a resource room; 
student attending a special class all day; student attending a special school 
outside the district.
³Available at www.pattan.net
4See Fact Sheet on Supplementary Aids and Services available at www.pattan.net
State Regulations
22 Pa. Code § 14.102 (a) (2) (xxiv)
Federal Statutes
Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. §1412 (a)(5)
Federal Regulations
2006 IDEA Regulations 34 C.F.R. § 300.114(a)
Oberti v. Board of Education of the Borough of Clementon School District., 
995 F.2d 1204 (3rd Cir. 1993)
Gaskin v. Pennsylvania, 389 F. Supp. 2d 628 (E.D. Pa. 2005).
Bureau of Special Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Phone: 717.783.6913

Content Last Modified on 2/6/2009 3:46:15 PM


School Services Unit
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Telephone: (717) 783-3750

Inclusive Practices

Special Education is a service, not a place. 

Through the implementation of inclusive practices, supplementary aids and 
services needed to access the general education curriculum are brought to the 
child, rather than sending the child out of the general education classroom 
to receive special education services. 

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) supports inclusive practices by 
requiring that "to the maximum extent appropriate, children with 
disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other 
care facilities, are educated with children that are non-disabled; and that 
special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with 
disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the 
nature or severity is such that education in regular classes with the use of 
supplementary aids and services, cannot be achieved satisfactorily." (IDEA, 

Least Restrictive Environment
The least restrictive environment component of IDEA establishes a preference 
for educating students with disabilities in general education classes with 
supplementary aids and services. Consideration of the regular class must be 
the starting place for any decision-making about the placement of any special 
education student. Adaptations and modifications to the general education 
curriculum and activities are provided to ensure the student is receiving 
instruction appropriate to his needs.

The term, "full inclusion" is used by some to mean the inclusion of every 
student with a disability in a regular classroom, throughout the school day, 
without exception. Although it may be appropriate for some students to remain 
in regular education all day, such an absolutist approach would limit 
educational options for others.  In order to ensure that all needs are met, 
IDEA also requires that a continuum of placements varying in their 
restrictiveness be available.  Pennsylvania school districts provide the 
required continuum of placements that are designed to provide a rich supply 
of diverse programs that support sound inclusive practices.

Inherent in inclusive practices is the concept of belonging or membership 
within the general education classroom. It differs from the past practice of 
mainstreaming where the child needed to demonstrate a readiness to be 
educated in general education settings by obtaining a predetermined academic 
or behavioral level of functioning. Inclusive practices means that ALL 
students, regardless of cognitive or academic level, are members of the 
general education class, and that appropriate supports are provided so that 
each student may learn and participate.

Although adherence to a high level of academic standards is imperative, 
inclusive education asserts that "Whether students' needs have been met is 
reflected not only by whether they have attained certain objectives, but by 
the impact that educational experiences have had on their lives." (Giangreco, 
1994). The quality of life of an individual with a disability and his 
acceptance and participation in the community in which he resides are as 
important as academic growth.


Effective Inclusive Practices

An effective inclusive program for a student begins with the participation of 
students with disabilities in a general education classes and other 
educational settings.  In addition, an effective inclusive school program 
includes the following practices:   

School Placement - It is preferable that students are members of diverse, age-
appropriate general education classes in their neighborhood school with 
supplementary aids and services provided to support learning and 
participation.  The IEP team considers and determines whether or not there is 
a need for  instruction outside of the general education settings, and if so, 
for what portion of the school day.    

Student Participation - Students participate as independently as possible, 
with appropriate supports, in all school activities and routines (e.g. 
transitions, cafeteria, clubs, and assemblies). 

Team Based Approach - The school embraces the philosophy of inclusive 
education and upholds high standards for student achievement. School teams 
have regularly scheduled planning and problem solving meetings in which 
parents are an integral part. Ongoing communication exists between related 
services and school team.

Use of Effective Instructional Practices - Explicit, data-based, systematic 
instruction is available for learning new tasks. Goals are standards-based, 
age appropriate and adapted for individual student needs. Family goals and 
perspectives are incorporated into the educational plan.

Adapted Materials and Curriculum - Planned adaptation of materials, 
assignments and tests are provided for students to address individual needs, 
as described in the IEP. 

Structures to Support Belonging - Special education teachers and 
paraeducators provide assistance to all students in the classroom. All 
students and staff are informed about differing abilities in a sensitive, 
realistic and positive manner.

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Last Modified: Monday, July 13, 2009
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