Most parents of children with disabilities will regale you of stories of their on-going battle with their child’s school district in an attempting to secure the most meaningful and appropriate education to their children while at the same time keeping the child mainstreamed for social purposes. Most parents who face this battle quickly become versed in the alphabetical soup of special education lingo including FAPE - a free appropriate public education, which is guaranteed by IDEA - the Congressional Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And of course the nature in which such an education is obtained under an IEP - Individualized Education Plan.
A recent United States Supreme Court has again brought IDEA to the forefront. In that the Supreme Court found in favor of a child with a disability in the June 22, 2009 decision Forest Grove School District v. T.A. (557 U.S. ___ (2009)). This dispute arose after the school district failed to establish an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for a student with ADHD. As a result of the school district’s failure to act, the parents enrolled the child, at the advice of a private counselor, in a private school. The Court found that such action was appropriate as the school had failed to provide a FAPE as required by the IDEA. As a result, the school district was ordered to reimburse the child, who was substituted as a party when he reached the age of majority, for the expense incurred procuring the private school education.
This decision reinforces the authority the parents retain in seeking and procuring the most appropriate education for their child with disabilities, even if such a decision results in removing the child from public school. However, a decision to remove a child from a public school should not be treated lightly with an expectation that such reimbursement would be ordered by the court.