Tuition Reimbursement for Private Special Education

In June 2009, the United States Supreme Court decided Forest Grove School District v. TA in which the Court held that private tuition reimbursement may be obtained even if the child was not previously receiving special education benefits from the public school system.  However, this does not mean that a child who never went to public school can obtain tuition reimbursement.  It means that, if a child was denied special education services before enrolling in private school, tuition reimbursement is a possible remedy.  Previously, it was an open question among the Circuits whether a child had to have had an IEP before tuition reimbursement could be considered.  That question has been answered in the negative.

Parents must understand that the public school system must be given a chance to provide a free, appropriate, public education for children with learning differences before tuition reimbursement can be available.  If you are a parent who is dissatisfied with your child’s progress in special education or mainstream classes, you must first complain to the principal and/or special education department and demand an IEP or review thereof.  You do not have to accept whatever IEP they come up with, but you must make your dissatifaction known in writing.  Then, if the school is unable to provide an adequate education, and you have the means to do so, you can enroll your child in private school and then hire an attorney to litigate reimbursement. 

The best proof that a public school system provided an inadequate education is a child’s success in a private school.  While it is often possible to obtain tuition reimbursement before attending private school, it is most effective from a litigation standpoint to be able to point to dramatic progress in the private school as a prima facie case that the public schools failed the student. 

If your child with learning differences is making progress in private school, and s/he was in public school at some point, you may be able to get your tuition reimbursed.  Call Peter B. Paris at Maselli Warren to discuss your options.

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