It’s a religious school. Does that matter?

The parents of a student in California are getting reimbursed by the public school for the tuition they paid at a private school.  This sort of thing only happens with students who have disabilities. The other students have no legal recourse, even if they are poorly served in the public school.  The other students are not protected by a federal law that sets out a standard for the quality of an education the student must receive. The other students are not protected by a network of procedural safeguards the public school must provide. 

In this case the court held that there was one procedural hoop the public school failed to jump through.  The court held that the district did not offer a specific private school as the recommended placement option. The district offered several options and the parents rejected all of them. Citing 9th Circuit precedent, the court held that this was enough to amount to a denial of FAPE.   Offering a variety of possible placements did not cut it.   The court held that the district was required to make a “clear written offer” for a specific school.   Key Quote:

Although it is clearly best for the school district to initially suggest several placements for the parents to discuss and consider, the school district must take the final step and clearly identify an appropriate placement from the range of possibilities and use its expertise to decide which program was best suited for student’s unique needs.

One more interesting wrinkle in this case.  The private school was Imago Dei, a religious school offered by the Trinity Classical Academy.  The court held that the law does not prohibit reimbursement of private school tuition just because the school is religiously affiliated.  As long as the placement is “proper” under IDEA, the parents can be reimbursed.  It’s William S. Hart School District v. Antillon, decided by the federal court for the Central District of California.  We found it on Special Ed Connection at 79 IDELR 73.


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Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!