After the IEP team establishes measurable goals for the student it is their job to determine the least restrictive environment (“LRE”) for the student to be educated. There cannot be a one size fits all class for disabled students. Therefore, many schools offer various alternatives to consider for their special education students.

Federal and California Statutes

One of the discussions that can quickly bring adversity to an IEP meeting is the discussion regarding the LRE for receiving special education services. While most people only think about the least restrictive environment relating to classroom setting, however other services may be subject to the same legal analysis.

Special education students have a right to be educated to the maximum extent possible with non-disabled peers. Removal from regular classes can only occur if the nature or severity is such that supplementary aids and services cannot assist in the student satisfactorily participating in the regular education class. (34 C.F.R. Section 300.114; 20 U.S.C. Section 1412(a)(5)(A); Cal. Ed. Code Section 56031.) Per statute, the IEP must contain an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with non-disabled children in the regular class and in the activities.

General Terms

Federal and state laws do not define the terms “mainstream” or “inclusion”. However, they are often used during IEP meetings. Therefore, it is important to have a general understanding of these terms.

Mainstreaming typically refers to placing the student in the regular education classroom without aids or support. Mainstreamed students are generally required to keep up with their students.

Inclusion typically refers to educating the student in the general education classroom while bringing the services to the student. Inclusion provides the students individualized attention.

Many parents confuse the two terms. Federal and state law support the idea that a student should be included in a regular classroom environment and removed only when appropriate services cannot e provided in the regular classroom.

Court Guidance

In Sacramento City Unified School District v. Rachel H. (9th Cir. 1994) 14 F.3d 1398, 1400-1402, the Ninth Circuit held that the determination of whether a particular placement is the “least restrictive environment” for a particular child involves an analysis of four factors, including:

(1) the educational benefits to the child of placement full-time in a regular class;

(2) the non-academic benefits to the child of such placement;

(3) the effect the disabled child will have on the teacher and children in the regular class; and (4) the costs of educating the child in a regular classroom with appropriate services, as compared to the cost of educating the child in the district’s proposed setting.

The IEP Team must look at each proposed educational placement using this balancing test.

Contact Our Office

If you have any questions regarding this or any other special education issue, feel free to contact our office via email at

(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page-


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