Alaska Court Rules On Reimbursement For Private Evaluation and Tutoring
In J.P. and L.P. v. Anchorage School District, a September 16, 2011 case decided by the Alaska Supreme Court, the court considered the issue of whether parents are entitled to reimbursement for private testing and tutoring where the school district failed to conduct its own testing within the prescribed timeline and subsequently determined the child to be ineligible for special education and related services.
The parents in this case had asked the school district to conduct testing to determine if their child had a disability. The district did not test within 45 school days as mandated by Alaska law. The parents pursued their own independent testing for which they expected reimbursement from the district and implemented private tutoring services for which they also sought reimbursement.
An impartial hearing officer determined based on the evidence presented that the child was performing adequately in a general education classroom and did not need tutoring to access the curriculum, but granted some reimbursement anyway because of the district's delays. An appellate court reversed the award of reimbursement for tutoring, and the Supreme Court agreed, on the grounds that in order to be eligible for reimbursement for services, you have to first be eligible for services. The IDEA requires not only that a person have a disability but also that the disability impairs his/her ability to derive educational benefit.
The Supreme Court's ruling on reimbursement for the private evaluation, however, was in favor of the parent. A parents' right to have his/her child evaluated has nothing to do with whether the child is actually found to have a disability. The whole point of the evaluation, based on the school district's "child find" responsibility, is to determine whether a disability exists. Therefore, the court awarded reimbursement and, citing to Forest Grove, explained that this merely requires the district to pay an expense that they were required to pay all along.