Washington Law Review


Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, both school- and preschool-age children who qualify for special education services are entitled to education in the least restrictive environments appropriate to their needs. For school-age children, the presumptive least restrictive environment is the regular class where their nondisabled peers participate. By contrast, defining an analogous environment for preschool children is difficult, because public schools rarely provide preschool for children without disabilities. This Comment argues that the Act’s language, principles, purposes, and implementing regulations suggest that the settings where a preschool child’s nondisabled peers learn should be identified as that child’s presumptive least restrictive environment. Examples of such settings may include the home, community, and regular preschool. This Comment then provides an analytical framework that courts can use when determining the least restrictive environment for a preschool child.

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