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Court Denies Parents of Disabled Child Private School Tuition

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

Here's an interesting case from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals involving private tuition rights for a student with disabilities.

The appellate court upheld a district court ruling on the matter, which essentially overturned a ruling by a PennsCylvania Due Process Hearing Officer.

Parents of a minor appealed the order from the District Court. The order granted judgment on the administrative record for Ridley School District.

Earlier, a Pennsylvania Due Process Hearing Officer had ruled that Ridley School District violated the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act.

The student involved was a child with learning disabilities and severe allergies. She attended a school within the Ridley School District for several years until her parents removed her, placing her in a private school after they deemed that the public school failed to provide for her needs.

They then filed an action against the school, seeking compensatory damages for reimbursement of tuition and transportation fees to send their child to the new school.

While in the public school, the school conducted numerous tests on the child and concluded that she did not suffer from a sufficient learning disability, so as to require special needs.

The parents and the school went back and forth, trying to determine how to help the student. She was placed in several learning enhancement programs, but eventually her parents determined that none of the programs suited her needs.

That's when they placed her in a private school.

Under IDEA, a public school is required to provide a special needs child with appropriate public education. When a school district is unable to provide this type of care or accommodation, it is required to reimburse the parents for the costs of sending the child to private school.

The child's parents alleged that the school's determination that the child had special circumstances came too late. The court threw out this argument, saying that there was no proscribed time period under the law.

While the child didn't qualify for special needs in kindergarten, the parents alleged that she should have been reevaluated immediately following kindergarten. The court disagreed with the parents' conclusion, and found that there was no obligation to reevaluate her immediately.

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