Tuition Reimbursement vs. Related Services
A hot issue these days is school districts telling parents that they are not entitled to related services if they are seeking tuition reimbursement for their child's special education private school. The districts' position is, "If you are saying that this private school is appropriate for your child, then it should have all of the services your child needs. If it is appropriate, there shouldn't be a need for you to obtain additional services." Based on that line of reason, school districts have in some cases refused to provide related services to students enrolled in special education private schools, and in some cases have tried to argue that the private school must not be appropriate if the child needs additional services from elsewhere. The issue is coming up more and more frequently.
In M.H. v. New York City Department of Education, a May 2010 U.S. District Court case in the Southern District of New York, the judge upheld the impartial hearing officer's determination that the child's special education private school was appropriate even though the school did not provide Speech, OT, or PT. The parents were neither seeking that the services be provided by the district nor were they receiving private services and looking for reimbursement. The child in that case was autistic and, presumably, could have benefited from those services. Nevertheless, it was evident that the child had made significant progress even without the services and the parents were awarded tuition reimbursement.
In contrast to M.H., there's SRO 09-119 where the parents were seeking reimbursement for the private school tuition and related services from the district as per the child's IEP. This is distinguishable from M.H. where the parents were seeking only tuition and not services. In 09-119, The SRO completely denied tuition reimbursement because the child required services which the school did not offer. The student received counseling, speech, and OT but those services were funded by the school district through Related Service Authorizations. The parent did not at any point dispute the appropriateness of these services. Based on this, the SRO ruled that that parent did not prove that the private school met the student's needs in the areas addressed by the related services of counseling, Speech, and OT. Tuition reimbursement was denied in its entirety.
The SRO decision was decided in December 2009 by Paul Kelly who we know has since resigned. District courts have overruled a number of his decisions in recent weeks since his resignation. SRO 09-119 is currently being appealed in federal court and a decision, in that case, should help clarify the picture.