I am hearing from parents more often than ever that they feel their child’s current educational placement is not providing a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). What are some of the options a parent has when this is the case: They can file a Due Process Complaint and wait for the outcome or they can place their child in a private school and try to get reimbursed for the cost of the tuition from the public School District. Parents who choose the latter do so at their own financial risk and must follow a specific method for withdrawing their child from public school. Whenever you file a Due Process complaint it is a good idea to consult with an experienced special education attorney but when you are trying to get reimbursed for Private School tuition it is even more important.
Some of the more important points to remember when you want to try and get reimbursed for private school tuition are:
- You must be able to prove that your child DID NOT receive FAPE from the placement offered by the School District and that your placement DID provide FAPE;
- You must either, a) disagree with the placement offer in the most recent IEP meeting stating you don’t think the offer provides FAPE and that you will be placing your child in a private school at public expense, or b) provide written notice to the School District ten business days prior to removing your child from public school that you will be placing your child in private school at public expense; and
- You must allow the School to perform a new assessment if the School District provides you with Prior Written Notice of their intent to do so before you remove your child from public school.
Below is an excerpt from the U.S. Department of Education Procedural Safeguards model form regarding parental placement in a private school at public expense.
34 CFR §300.148
Part B of IDEA does not require a school district to pay for the cost of education, including special education and related services, of your child with a disability at a private school or facility if the school district made a free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to your child and you choose to place the child in a private school or facility. However, the school district where the private school is located must include your child in the population whose needs are addressed under the Part B provisions regarding children who have been placed by their parents in a private school under 34 CFR §§300.131 through 300.144.
Reimbursement for private school placement
If your child previously received special education and related services under the authority of a school district, and you choose to enroll your child in a private preschool, elementary school, or secondary school without the consent of or referral by the school district, a court or a hearing officer may require the agency to reimburse you for the cost of that enrollment if the court or hearing officer finds that the agency had not made a free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to your child in a timely manner prior to that enrollment and that the private placement is appropriate. A hearing officer or court may find your placement to be appropriate, even if the placement does not meet the State standards that apply to education provided by the State Educational Agency and school districts.
Limitation on reimbursement
The cost of reimbursement described in the paragraph above may be reduced or denied:
- If: (a) At the most recent individualized education program (IEP) meeting that you attended prior to your removal of your child from the public school, you did not inform the IEP Team that you were rejecting the placement proposed by the school district to provide FAPE to your child, including stating your concerns and your intent to enroll your child in a private school at public expense; or (b) At least 10 business days (including any holidays that occur on a business day) prior to your removal of your child from the public school, you did not give written notice to the school district of that information;
- If, prior to your removal of your child from the public school, the school district provided prior written notice to you of its intent to evaluate your child (including a statement of the purpose of the evaluation that was appropriate and reasonable), but you did not make the child available for the evaluation; or
- Upon a court’s finding that your actions were unreasonable.
However, the cost of reimbursement:
- Must not be reduced or denied for failure to provide the notice if: (a) The school prevented you from providing the notice; (b) You had not received notice of your responsibility to provide the notice described above; or (c) Compliance with the requirements above would likely result in physical harm to your child; and
- May, in the discretion of the court or a hearing officer, not be reduced or denied for your failure to provide the required notice if: (a) You are not literate or cannot write in English; or (b) Compliance with the above requirement would likely result in serious emotional harm to your child.
As you can see this is one of the more complicated issues in IDEA which is why it is important to consult with an experienced special education attorney prior to removing your child from the public school.