If you enroll your child in a private school unilaterally (that is, without the agreement of the rest of the IEP team) there is a possibility that you may be reimbursed for the money you have spent. However, you will probably have to prove at a due process hearing that the district’s program was not appropriate and that the private school you selected is appropriate. You may be entitled to reimbursement even if the private school in which you “parentally-placed” your child in is not certified by the state. [Florence County School District v. Carter, 510 U.S. 7 (1993); Union School District v. Smith, 15 F.3d 1519 (9th Cir. 1994); 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.148(c); Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56175.]
You should inform the IEP team at the most recent IEP meeting that you intend to reject the public-school placement offer before removing your child from the public school. At that same meeting, you should also state your concerns and your intent to enroll your child in a private school at public expense. Otherwise, you may be denied full or partial reimbursement. However, if you do not give notice at the meeting, you must give written notice to the district at least 10 business days before you remove your child. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.148(d)(1); Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56176.]
Reimbursement may also be denied or reduced if before you remove your child, the district notifies you of its desire to reassess him, and you fail to make your child available for that reassessment. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56176(c); 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.148(d)(2).]
If you do not give the required notice described above, either at the most recent IEP meeting or in writing at least 10 business days before removal, reimbursement must not be reduced or denied if you failed to give the necessary notice because:
- it would likely have resulted in physical harm to the child,
- the school prevented you from giving notice, or
- you had not received your parents-rights notice which would have informed you of your responsibilities in this situation.
Also, if you cannot read or write English, or you do not give notice because it would likely result in serious emotional harm to your child, the due process hearing officer or judge may also decide to reimburse you fully or in part. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.148(e); Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56177.]
Regardless, reimbursement may be denied or reduced if a judicial officer finds that your actions were unreasonable. [34 C.F.R. 300.148(d)(3); Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56176(d).] See Chapter 6, Information on Due Process/Procedures.