Rethinking Special Education’s “Least Restrictive Environment” Requirement
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act promotes the education of students with disabilities together with their nondisabled peers, requiring education in the “least restrictive environment” (“LRE”). This requirement has long been subject to competing interpretations. This Note contends that the dominant interpretation—requiring education in the least restrictive environment available—is deficient and allows students to be placed in unnecessarily restrictive settings. Drawing from child mental health law, this Note proposes an alternative LRE approach that requires education in the least restrictive environment needed and argues that this alternative approach is a better reading of the law.
* J.D. Candidate, May 2016, University of Michigan Law School. M.S.W. Candidate, May 2016, University of Michigan School of Social Work. I would like to thank my parents and Professor Samuel Bagenstos for their invaluable advice and support.