California Special Education Law

Advocacy Resources, Hearing & Appeal Decisions, Statistics and More for Parents

Private School Placement

Is my child entitled to placement in a private school or a residential facility?


In one recent case, the parent enrolled the student in a private school after increased behavioral problems and use of restraint. The district had proposed a behavior intervention plan (“BIP”), but the parents disagreed with the plan and dismissed the IEP team’s suggestions. According to the court, the district did not deny the student a FAPE. This means that when the district attempts to develop a BIP, and the parent disagrees, the parents’ placement of the student in a private school may not be reimbursed.

C.J.N. v. Minneapolis Pub. Sch., Special NO. 1, 323 F.3d 630 (8th Cir. 2003)

A parent has the right to disagree with the IEP at the time the offer is made.  The student doesn’t have to “test drive” the program and wait for failure.  Therefore, when a school district makes an inappropriate offer of placement and services, the parent can immediately give appropriate notice and then move their child to an appropriate non-public school and reserve their right to reimbursement under the IDEA.

Forest Grove School District v. T.A. 129 S.Ct. 2484 (US 2009)

However, where the district’s placement offer is inappropriate a private school placement may be necessary. In one California case the parents of a preschool student with a language disorder placed her in a private school where she would have contact with non-disabled peers. The district had offered placement in a non-inclusion preschool classroom. This court found that the placement offered by the district failed to provide the student FAPE because it did not meet her needs in the areas of social skills and pragmatics. This means that if parents can show private placement confers education benefit on their child and a district’s placement would have been in a more restrictive environment, the parents will likely prevail on a claim that the district did not provide FAPE in the least restrictive environment.

Katherine G. v. Kentfield School District, 261 F. Supp. 2d 1159 (N.D. CA 2003)