9th Circuit says charters are public schools

Some lawyer in California tried to make the case that a charter school is a private school. If the courts agreed with that, it would have a lot of implications for how we serve students with disabilities.  When a parent chooses to place their child in a private school, the local public school retains responsibilities under IDEA.  The district where the private school is located has a Child Find responsibility.  The district where the child resides still has the duty to make sure that parents understand they can receive a FAPE by enrolling in the school.  If a charter school is the same as a private school, then the charter school would be able to slough off the responsibilities that public schools have and direct parents back to the traditional school for such services.

But the argument did not work. The 9th Circuit held that under California law, a charter school is a public school, and has the same responsibilities to serve students under IDEA as the local traditional school district.  The court cited the federal regulation that requires a traditional school district to “locate, identify and evaluate” children who attend a private school that is located in the geographical boundaries of the school district, and then noted that:

These regulations have no application here because it is undisputed that N.F. was enrolled in a public charter school, not a private institution.

In Texas, charter schools are also “public schools” so this decision would presumably go the same way in Texas.   This one is N.F. v. Antioch USD, decided by the 9th Circuit on April 15, 2022. It’s located in Special Educator at 80 IDELR 267.


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com

Tomorrow: Sheesh-O-Meter case