Special Education Ruling

Last Updated: July 18, 2009

This article appeared in the July 2009 Rural Policy Matters.

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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in Forest Grove School Dist. v. T. A that parents whose child was never enrolled in special education can receive reimbursement from the public school for tuition at a private school that was able to provide the student an appropriate education. Other case law had cleared the way for parents to seek this type of reimbursement when the public school had tried and failed to serve students with disabilities.
But in this case, the student’s school found him ineligible for special education, and his parents briefly agreed with the decision before deciding he needed additional help. The parents then enrolled the child in a private school and sought reimbursement for the tuition, which the school district refused.
Experts in special education law are divided in their opinion of this decision. Some view it as a narrow precedent that will only apply in rare cases; others see it as creating a wider opportunity for parents to look outside public schools for special education services.
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Read more from the July 2009 Rural Policy Matters.