Special Education M.A.

Year Approved


First Advisor

Strand, Charles


The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is the guiding force behind placement for special education students. It provides students with disabilities access to the general education classroom and the ability to learn. The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 (IDEA) sets forth regulations that require academic institutions to prioritize inclusive learning for all students regardless of the severity of needs. However, through various studies and findings, institutions have not followed mandates wholeheartedly. Due to this, students with disabilities, as well as minority students, are both consciously and subconsciously pushed away from the general education classroom, unfairly singled out through the referral process and treated differently based on race or their disability label. Assumptions and narrow points of view have contributed to unbalanced placement trends, practices, opportunities, and outcomes for students with disabilities. There is also an apparent lack of inclusion within special education. This can be seen in many program structures. Despite efforts, research has presented trends that indicate prolonged exclusion and unequal treatment for those with more severe needs. Multiple studies will reveal that there has been a lack of effort among institutions to address individual needs in the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment). This sends the message that the only place for high need students to learn is outside the mainstream classroom. Decisions regarding placement should always be made on a case-by-case basis and not be primarily influenced by situational, socio-economic, or other factors.

Degree Name

Special Education M.A.

Document Type

Masterʼs thesis