Seeking Reimbursement For Placement

If your child is in a public school setting, or a non-public school funded by the local school district, your child is entitled to have an annual IEP held each year. As a general rule, this happens automatically and you need not request that an IEP be held.
This is NOT the case if your child has been placed by you in a private school or even a non-public school but without a contract with the district. Such placements are referred to as parentally placed students and the district no longer has to hold an annual IEP meeting for such a child unless a specific request is received from the parent for an annual IEP. If you have provided a placement outside the public school that is not paid for by the district because you believe the district failed to offer your child a Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”), in order to protect your legal rights to payment of such placement, you must make a specific written request that the district hold an annual IEP for your child. This is now required as a result of a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist. v. S.W., 21 F.4th 1125 (9th Cir. 2021).
This decision in Capistrano has put the burden on parents who are seeking to be reimbursed for the private school tuition to request an annual IEP.  If an individual acting on behalf of the student does not make a request for the annual IEP meeting, the local educational agency has no obligation to hold such a meeting. Without a meeting to explore the option being offered by the district for the coming year, there is no basis for seeking reimbursement for the placement the family found necessary for the child.
We suggest that families who are in this situation have a yearly reminder of the need to request an IEP meeting from the district. We suggest the request be made no later than April 1 of the current year so that an IEP can be held before the end of the then current school year with the specific purpose of developing an IEP for the upcoming summer and following school year.
The decision in Capistrano is being aggressively followed by school districts. If you are in the position of having a parentally placed student in a school for which you hope to receive reimbursement, you will not be able to pursue such reimbursement unless you have both had an IEP meeting with the district for the year in question and then taken additional steps to protect your potential right to reimbursement.
When the IEP meeting takes place, you must attend and participate in discussing your child’s unique and individual needs. You must give careful consideration to the placement and services offered by the district and careful decisions must be made as to whether or not the offered placement and services can meet the needs of the student. This should include observing the program offered and the elements present to meet the individual needs of the child. If after this careful consideration a decision is made that what has been offered cannot meet the needs of the student, then formal notice of that fact must be given to the district along with notice that you will be seeking reimbursement for the costs of the parental placement. If you do not either sign the IEP giving this notice or otherwise give such written notice, you will arguably lose your right to reimbursement for the program you are providing.

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