Our office receives a lot of questions about students who are placed in private schools. Are children enrolled in private schools entitled to special education supports and services? Generally speaking, students placed in private schools, including parochial schools, are not entitled to receive special education services under the IDEA from their District of residence. However, the IDEA does require school districts to spend a proportionate amount of funds for the provision of special education and related services to privately placed students with disabilities. Additionally, federal law requires school districts where the private school is located to develop a service plan for all students who are eligible to receive special education services.
CHILD FIND MANDATE: School districts are also required to locate, identify, and evaluate all students with disabilities who are enrolled in private schools located in the school district's jurisdiction. This is called the Child Find Mandate. This means that another school district, other than your district of residence, may have some responsibility for conducting an evaluation upon your child. The law states that school districts, "after timely and meaningful consultation with private schools", must engage in the child find process to determine the number of parentally placed children with disabilities who are attending private schools located in the district. Thus, a school district can't simply ignore a student with disabilities who is attending a private school within their boundaries.
Additionally, your school district of residence may have some responsibility to evaluate your child with disabilities and provide an offer of placement and services to your child, even if your child is attending a private school located in another school district. Thus, your school district of residence may coordinate with the school district where the private school is located and decide to conduct an evaluation themselves.
What does all of this mean?
Students with disabilities enrolled in private schools may have the right to a service plan.
School districts must locate, identify and evaluate students with disabilities who are enrolled in private schools within their jurisdiction.
School districts must engage in "meaningful consultation" with private schools located in the district to determine if there are students with disabilities who require special education assessment.
School districts of residence may choose to engage in the Child Find evaluation process and conduct an assessment upon a child who is attending a private school within another school district. This is typically coordinated between the two districts.
Many families contact our office with significant concerns about their privately placed child who is struggling in school. If your child is attending a private school and you have more questions about your rights, contact our office to see if we can help.
Danielle Augustin is a founding partner of Augustin Egelsee LLP, a law firm representing children and families with special education needs. Danielle has been practicing law for 20 years, first as a deputy district attorney in Orange County, California, then as a special education student attorney for the past 15 years. For more information about special education law, go to: www.OcKidsLaw.com or call 714-282-1242.