Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Forest Grove Sch. District v. T.A., 129 S. Ct 2484 (2009) in which it ruled that the IDEA does not categorically bar reimbursement to parents who unilaterally place their child in a private school even if that child had not previously received special education services. However, this decision by the Supreme Court was not the end of the story, as the Supreme Court remanded the case to the district court for consideration of the merits of the parents’ claim for reimbursement. On remand, a United States District Court in Oregon ruled that the parents were not, in fact, entitled to any reimbursement from the school district for their unilateral placement of the student in a private, residential facility.
The court cited several key factors in its decision. First, the court concluded that the student had been placed for behavioral and drug problems, and not for reasons related to a disability recognized by the IDEA (noting that “it is important to note that the District’s responsibility under the IDEA is to remedy learning related symptoms of a disability, not to treat the underlying disability, or to treat other, non-learning related symptoms). Second, the parents had failed to provide adequate notice to the district of their intent to place the student, as they did not tell the district about the placement until after the student had already been placed. Finally, the district court noted that the evidence showed that the parents had selected the private school without visiting the school, or expending significant effort to researching appropriate schools, and that the evidence indicated that the student was enrolled “for reasons other than his ADHD and depression.” For the full text of the decision in Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v. TA, No. 04-331 (D. Ore. Dec. 8, 2009), click here.