Out-of-District Placement

Out-of-District placement can be a very contentious topic between parents and public school districts. Some parents contend that the placement of their child in an out-of-district placement is too restrictive and does not allow for social interaction with other students where he lives. School districts are concerned with the costs of such placements. Most of the problems occur when parents believe that the education provided by the public school is inadequate for the needs of their child. It is here that district’s rightfully maintain that they are not required to provide the “best education”, but only an “appropriate education.” Consequently, the parents’ desire for another placement requires much planning.

A parent must prove that the child’s needs are not being adequately provided by the public school. To do this, past IEPs must be examined and their goals and objectives evaluated. Has there been progression, regression, or stagnation? What needs to be done to rectify a bad situation? Does the public school have the means to make those adjustments? If not, which schools do? Can you prove that a proposed new school can rectify the situation. Finally, if you are insistent that your child be placed in such a school, are you capable of absorbing the cost of such a placement, if you do not prevail with the public school and all appeals side with the public school?

The process begins with the IEP - it’s preparation, development, finalization, and it’s evaluation. The final item on the IEP should deal with the student’s placement. If agreement cannot be reached between the parent and the district, the parent has the the right of appeal to mediation and a Due Process hearing.

The details involved in the Process above are often tedious, contentious, and require a knowledge of the applicable special education laws. Unless a parent is well versed in these proceedings, it is recommended that an advocate or attorney who has experience special education law. A simple timing miscalculation can defeat everything theretofore accomplished.

The parent must receive evaluations and recommendations from various specialists, depending on the child’s disability. The parent must also present the concerns you experienced in your everyday interactions with your child. These must be placed in writing along with any goals and objectives you have.

At the IEP meeting, make certain that all of your concerns and goals are included in the IEP. The school district will do the same. At this point it must be determined if the district has a program to meet the specialized needs indicated in the IEP draft. Has the child been making adequate progress in the in-district program. Can the district make appropriate changes to its program so that it becomes appropriate for your child? Is an out-of-district placement the only way your child’s medical or behavioral needs can be met? When the draft IEP is prepared, take it home and scrutinize it. Does it include everything you wanted? If not, do not sign it and express your concerns to the IEP team. If they refuse to make all the changes you and/or your specialists recommended, inform the team of your intention to appeal to a mediator.

At this point, time lines become important. Appeals before a mediator must be accompanied by evidence of medical authorities, personal experiences, and proof of stagnation or regression in what the district has been doing. If an out-of-district placement is being sought, proof that such a place will address all of your needs, whereas the present district school has failed to do so. Again, an advocate or an attorney should accompany you to the mediation hearing. Often, the mediator will help to resolve the differences between you and the district- even an out-of-district placement.

If the mediator does not rule in your favor, your next step would be to have a Due Process hearing before an administrative law judge. Appealing beyond this would go to the Commissioner Of Education.

Selecting a proper out-of-district placement
Out-of-district placements are not a cure all. Prior to your IEP meeting, you must conduct an investigation of the schools you are considering. Each school is different and has it’s strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to your child’s needs. You must present reasonable assurance to the district that the the school you selected will achieve progress where it has not been evidenced in the current in-district placement.

This process is fraught with legalese and detailed procedures, especially if it proceeds to the appellate process. The earlier you bring in an attorney into the process, the more likely, you will succeed.

Contact us at the Susan Clark Law Group at 732-637-5248 for a free consultation.
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