The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging a federal appeals court to ensure that school districts are not required to reimburse parents who unilaterally choose educational placements for their children with disabilities if those placements are not appropriate under federal special education law.
NSBA joins the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) in an amicus brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to uphold a lower court decision in C.L. v. Scarsdale Union Free School District. The case was brought by parents who unilaterally placed their child, who has learning disabilities, in a private school then asked the school district for tuition reimbursement. School officials had determined that the child’s disability did not qualify him for special education services under the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law requires students with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children in a regular classroom to the extent it is appropriate to their educational needs.
“IDEA is intended to promote collaboration between schools and families, and a school district should not be required to pay for an inappropriate private placement that was made without its input,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “A core tenet of IDEA is that students with disabilities should not be cut off from environments that include their non-disabled peers.”
The amicus brief written by NYSSBA responds to a U.S. Department of Justice position that the school district should pay for the restrictive placement unless it proves that there were other less restrictive private placements available to the parents but that those options were rejected without reason.
“School districts recognize the importance of working with families to determine appropriate placements for students with disabilities,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. “However, a school district shouldn’t be required to pay for a restrictive private school unilaterally chosen by a parent. School officials and parents should be partners not adversaries in this process.”
NSBA’s Legal Clips also has written about the case.