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Can School Districts be Required to Pay for a Child's Private School?

If local school district fails to provide a child with a disability a free appropriate public education it can often be required to reimburse the parents for the educational costs of a private school.

Comments from the NEUROLOGIST, 

A parent recently came to see me with her child who had dyslexia. During the course of their visit the mom told me that the public school education her son was receiving was totally inadequate to meet his needs. She told me that she wanted her son to go to a private school that had a program that exactly fit his educational needs. She could not afford to pay for it. I asked the attorney.

Comments from the ATTORNEY, 

Generally if parents place their child in a private school they are not entitled to have the local education agency pay for that education. If, however, the hearing officer or a court finds that the agency had not provided the child a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”), it may require the agency to reimburse the parents for the cost of that placement. A FAPE is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and consists of educational instruction specially designed to meet the unique needs of the handicapped child.

There are actually two things that must be shown for the parents to be compensated for the costs of the private school. First, the hearing officer or court must find that the school district failed to provide the child with a FAPE. The failure to have an appropriate IEP, or to implement a material or significant portion of the IEP, can amount to a denial of a FAPE. Second, the hearing officer or court must also find that the education provided in the private placement was appropriate; that it was reasonably calculated to provide an educational benefit.

The IDEA also requires that the child have “previously received special education or related services under the [school’s] authority” before the parents can be compensated for the educational costs incurred for privately placing the child. Scenario: The child is in public school and the parents decide that he needs special education. They also believe that a particular private school will better meet their child’s educational needs. They then enroll their child in that private school and request that the school district reimburse them for the educational costs.

The school district will undoubtedly say “NO”, you have to have been in special education here first as required by the law. That is true but then the Supreme Court concluded “that IDEA authorizes [tuition] reimbursement for the cost of private special education services when a school district fails to provide a FAPE and the private-school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school."

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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