Aug 19, 2008
Some students with disabilities attend private rather than public schools. There are three scenarios in which a student with a disability might be placed in a private school. First, the public school district places the child in a private school because it believes the private school is better able to provide a free appropriate public education to the child than the public school. In this scenario the private school placement would be recommended by the student’s IEP team, and the public schools must ensure the child receives services at no cost to the parents. Second, the student’s parents place their child in the private school because the parents believe the public placement is inappropriate and the private placement will provide a free appropriate public education. In this circumstance the public schools may be responsible for the costs of the private placement if the parents can establish that, (a), the public school program is inappropriate, and (b) the private program will provide a free appropriate public education. Third, the parents choose to place their child in a private setting and providing a free appropriate public education is not an issue. Under the IDEA these students are referred to as parentally placed private school children.
Parentally-placed private school students are entitled to some services from the public schools but, they are not entitled to the same services they would receive if enrolled in a public school program. Parentally placed private school children are entitled to child find services. But, parentally placed private school children do not have an individual right to receive the same or all of the special education and related services the students would receive if enrolled in public school.
In fact, the fiscal amount school districts must spend on providing services to private school children is limited. The public schools are only required to spend on parentally-placed private school children an amount proportionate to the number of private school children with disabilities compared to the number of public school children with disabilities. This proportion is determined, district by district, based on the number of students with disabilities living in each district. To determine how the district will spend that allocation, school districts must consult with representatives of private schools within their districts.
If a student with a disability is enrolled in a private school, but will receive special education services from the school district, then the district must develop a services plan for the student. A services plan is similar to an IEP, but developed specifically for students in private schools who receive special education services from the public school district. The plan must specifically describe the special education and related services the private school student will receive from the school district. In developing this plan, however, private school children may receive a different amount of services than students in the public schools. The services are provided based upon the school district’s allocation of funds for private school children and the plan the district has developed, in consultation with private school representatives, to serve private school children.
Services to private school children may be provided at the public school, at a service site, or at the private school. A service site is a place where the student receives services that is not the public school or private school. For example, a service site might be a community library or other community center where the student might receive services. If a student requires transportation, to benefit from the special education services being provided, then transportation must be provided. But the school district is not required to transport students from their home to the private school or from the private school to their home. Transportation can be provided from the student’s home to a service site, or from the student’s home to the student’s public school.
Appeal Process for Parentally-Placed Private School Children
Parents who choose to enroll their children in private schools do not have the same due process procedures available to them as parents of children in the public schools. Private school parents may not use the due process hearing procedures to appeal the services plan or the district’s failure to comply with the service plan. Those issues can be taken to the State Education Agency through the State Education Agency Complaint Process. Parents of private school children, however, may use the due process hearing procedures to appeal issues regarding the district’s child find obligation to locate, identify, and evaluate children with disabilities.