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(4.47) If I place my child in a private or religious school on my own, must the school district provide an IEP and special education services to my child?

(4.47) If I place my child in a private or religious school on my own, must the school district provide an IEP and special education services to my child?

No.  If you choose to enroll your child in a private or parochial school on your own, federal law gives students with disabilities and their parents only limited rights to special education services in these circumstances. A student with a disability who is “parentally-placed” in a private school, including a religious school (that is, voluntarily and “unilaterally” enrolled without the agreement of an IEP team) has no right to receive some or all of the special education and related services that she would receive if enrolled in a public school. [20 U.S.C. Secs. 1412(a)(10)(B) & (C); 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.137.]

The district must nevertheless provide for the participation of your child in its special education programs. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.132.] It must spend a certain amount of the federal funding it receives for special education students on children with special needs educated in private schools.  The school district alone determines what services will be provided – for example, speech services for preschoolers or itinerant reading instruction, etc.  With input from parents and private schools but unlike the special education process, the district is responsible for making the final decision with respect to the educational services to be provided to these students. [34 C.F.R. Secs. 300.137(b)(1) & (2).]

Districts must be inclusive and thoughtful in determining how to spend this portion of money on parentally-placed, private-school students with disabilities. The district must engage in a timely and meaningful consultation with representatives from private schools and representatives of parents of parentally-placed students. Private school officials may file a complaint with the U.S. Secretary of Education if they believe the district did not engage in timely and meaningful consultation or did not give due consideration to their views. [20 U.S.C. Secs. 1412(a)(10)(A)(1)((I)-(V); 34 C.F.R. Secs. 300.134 – 300.136.]

The district must spend a proportionate share of federal dollars received by the district (based on the number of parentally-placed students compared to the total district population of students with disabilities). [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.133.] However, federal law does not prohibit a district from spending additional state funds for this purpose [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.133(d).] Services may be provided on the premises of private schools,

even religious schools “to the extent consistent with law.” Local education agencies are not required to provide transportation from the child’s home to private school.  [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.139.]

Once a student with a disability is enrolled in a religious or other private school by the student’s parents and will receive educational services, the district must conduct meetings to develop, review and revise a services plan that describes the special education and related services that the district will provide to the student in light of the services that the district has determined it will make available. The services plan must be developed, reviewed, and revised using the same procedures required in the development of an IEP. [34 C.F.R. Secs. 300.137(c) & (b).]

Special education and related services, including materials and equipment, must be secular, neutral, and non-ideological. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.138(c)(2).] If transportation is necessary for students to benefit from the services, the district must provide transportation from the student’s school or home to a site other than the private school and from the service site to the private school. The district is not required to provide transportation from the student’s home to the private school. The cost of the transportation may be included in calculating whether the district has met its financial burden in the provision of services to parentally-placed private school students. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.139.]

The school district has educational responsibility for all children, including children with disabilities, living within their geographic jurisdiction.  If you have placed your child in a private or parochial school without involvement of your school district, the district where the school is located continues to be responsible for assessing your child for special education eligibility and offering appropriate special education services if your child is eligible for special education. As long as the school district has made FAPE available at its public schools, it is not required to pay for special education and related services for any parentally-placed student in a private school. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.148.] However, if your child is placed in a private school by the district in order to receive FAPE (although it is unlikely a district would place a student in a private religious school for this purpose), the district is financially responsible for all necessary instructional, related, and supplementary services. [34 C.F.R. Secs. 300.145 – 300.147.] See Chapter 5, Information on Related Services.