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Supreme Court Will Soon Decide Special-Needs Case

June 1 2009 | by

The Supreme Court will soon decide on a high-profile case that centers around the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and will have implications for families of children with special needs and school districts across the country.

In Forest Grove School District v. T.A., the parents of an Oregon high-school student, who is identified only as T.A., sought reimbursement for his $5,200-a-month private-school education, which they said was necessary after T.A. was found ineligible for special-education services.

Under IDEA, disabled children are entitled to a “free appropriate public education” if they qualify. The law allows parents to seek public financing for private school if the public schools cannot adequately serve their children. While most of the nation’s six million special-education students attend public school, almost 90,000 students are in private placements — most of them with their public school’s agreement.

The court must decide whether parents who unilaterally place their child in private school, instead of first choosing public school services, should be reimbursed for their efforts. Forest Grove argues that precisely because the boy never received special-education services in public school, he is not eligible for tuition reimbursement under the federal disabilities law.

But increasingly, thousands of families are turning to expensive private eduction for their children with learning, emotional and developmental and then seeking reimbursement.

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