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High court upholds tuition reimbursement for disabled children in private schools

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled [opinion, PDF] 6-3 Monday in Forest Grove School District v. T.A. [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) [text] permits a tuition reimbursement award against a school district and in favor of parents who unilaterally place their child in private school, where the child had not previously received special education and related services under the authority of a public agency. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that such reimbursement is not barred. Affirming the decision below, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:

we conclude that IDEA authorizes reimbursement for the cost of private special-education services when a school district fails to provide a [free appropriate public education] and the private-school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school.

Justice David Souter filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The IDEA requires states receiving federal funding to make a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) available to all children with disabilities residing in the state. The Court has previously held that when a public school fails to provide a FAPE and a child's parents place the child in an appropriate private school without the school district's consent, a court may require the district to reimburse the parents for the cost of the private education.

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