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Parent's Decision to Change Placement

Parents have the right to determine where their children will receive their education. However, once a student has been identified as an eligible individual, the district and AEA have an obligation to ensure a free appropriate public education (FAPE), and all placements decisions are made by the student’s IEP team.

IDEA does not require that a district or AEA pay for the cost of education in a private school or facility, including special education and related services for a child with a disability, if:

  • The district made FAPE available to the student
  • If the parent(s) elected to place the student in a private school or facility

If there is a disagreement between a parent(s) and district regarding the availability of an appropriate program for an eligible student, the question of who is responsible for the cost may be determined via an impartial due process hearing.

Reimbursement for Private School Placement

If the parent(s) of an eligible student, who previously received special education and related services under the authority of an AEA or district, enroll the student in a nonpublic school, a preschool, an elementary or a secondary school without the consent of or referral by the public agency, a court or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may require the district to reimburse the parent(s) for the cost of the enrollment if:

  • The court or ALJ finds that the district/AEA had not made FAPE available to the student in a timely manner prior to the enrollment in the private school
  • The private placement is appropriate

NOTE: An ALJ or court may find the private placement appropriate even if it does not meet the state standards that apply to education provided by DE, AEAs, and districts.

Reimbursement Reduced or Denied

Reimbursement may be reduced or denied if:

  • At the most recent IEP meeting, the parent(s) attended prior to the removal, the parent(s) did not inform the IEP team that they were rejecting the placement proposed to provide a FAPE to the student, including stating their concerns with the proposed placement and intent to enroll their child in a nonpublic school at public expense.
  • The parent(s) did not give written notice 10 business days (including any holidays that occur on a business day) before the removal.
  • Prior to the removal the district or AEA requested an evaluation and the parent(s) did not make the child available.
  • If a court finds the parents’ actions were unreasonable.

According to IDEA, the cost of reimbursement must not be reduced or denied if:

  • The district prevented the parent(s) from providing the required notice
  • The parent(s) did not get notice of these requirements
  • Compliance would likely result in physical harm to the student

The cost of reimbursement may, at the discretion of the court or an ALJ, not be reduced or denied for failure to provide the required notice if:

  • The parent(s) are illiterate and unable to write in English
  • Compliance would likely result in serious emotional harm to the student

For more information on Unilateral Placement by parents, see the Procedural Safeguards Manual in the Resources section.