If you have found yourself in a battle with your child’s public school over his or her Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), and you have removed (or are intending to remove) your child from that school and enrolled him or her in a private school that better meets your child’s needs, you may be able to recover the costs of that private school. These cases are known as Carter cases, after the case U.S. Supreme Court case addressing the issue.
In 1993, the Supreme Court of the United States held that a court may order reimbursement for parents who unilaterally withdraw their child from a public school that provides an inappropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and enroll that child in a private school that provides an education otherwise proper under IDEA but does not necessarily meet all of the requirements under 20 U.S.C. § 1401(a)(18). Florence County School Dist. Four v. Carter, 510 U.S. 7 (1993).
However, recovery of tuition and other costs is NOT automatic. The law requires the satisfaction of a three-prong test, and the parents have the burden of proof. To win, the parents must prove the following:
- The program the public school offered the child was not appropriate;
- The program the private school offered the child was appropriate; and
- The parent did not hinder the public school’s development of an appropriate IEP.
If you have found yourself in a fight with your child’s public school over his or her IEP and you are considering private school as an alternative, you may be able to recover the costs associated with your child attending the private school. Having an attorney involved as early in the process as possible is almost always best.