1. Special Needs Children and Private School Tuition Reimbursement
2. Supreme Court Ruling - Understanding the Forrest CaseOn Writ of Certiorari from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court reviewed the Forest case and ruled that school districts that do not make a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) available to students with disabilities may have to provide private school tuition reimbursement under certain conditions, even if the student had not been served in public schools. This is a significant difference from previous caselaw that established parents could be eligible to seek tuition reimbursement through due process only if:
- they allowed schools the opportunity to provide FAPE to the child in a public school; and
- the schools failed to provide appropriate services.
3. Did the Parents Win Reimbursement?Did the Supreme Court ruling grant the parents tuition reimbursement in the Forest case? No. The ruling only gave parents the right to seek reimbursement for private school tuition through due process for their special needs child.
The parents requested an evaluation for the child, which the school denied. A private evaluator diagnosed the student with a disability, and the parents subsequently placed the child in a private school program.
With the Forest ruling, the parents won the right to seek reimbursement through due process by means of a due process hearing. The case was remanded the case to the U.S. District Court, District of Oregon for further proceedings.
4. Can All Special Needs Students Get Tuition Reimbursement?The Supreme Court ruling does not mean that all special needs students will receive private school tuition reimbursement. Whether or not a child receives tuition reimbursement will continue to be decided on an individual basis through the established due process procedures in the IDEA. Consequently, unless the school district voluntarily agrees to place a child in a private program and to pay for it, parents must seek reimbursement through a due process hearing by proving the district:
- Did not accept their referral requesting an evaluation for their child; and/or
- Failed to provide FAPE.