Saturday, October 27, 2007

Parents of son with autism sue school district

"At their son Jack’s second birthday party, David and Kim LaPierre noticed he was shutting out the other children, their first inkling that he was autistic. They enrolled him in a private preschool for children without disabilities and with more than 30 hours a week of therapy at home, he began to connect with others.

The school district in Springfield, N.J., became responsible for his education when he turned 3, and proposed moving him to a public classroom for disabled children. Fearing that Jack would backslide, the family kept him in private school, suing the schools to recover their expenses.

“It makes no sense to us as parents that we would have to put our son in a place that we knew wasn’t right for him, just so we could qualify for the school’s services or funding to help us.” said Mr. LaPierre, who estimates spending more than $60,000 a year on tuition and therapy.

Cases like these have increasingly become a flash point in special education, pitting parents against school systems that say they cannot afford to pay to privately educate disabled children whose parents unilaterally reject their proposed placements.

Expectations that the Supreme Court would settle whether such parents must try public schools first evaporated after Justice Anthony M. Kennedy recused himself without explanation in two cases from New York State.


The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act guarantees a “free appropriate public education” for children with disabilities. Most of the nation’s nearly six million special-education students attend public school, but the law allows parents to seek public financing for private schools if they can show that the public schools cannot adequately serve their children.

As of 2005, more than 88,000 disabled students were educated in private settings at taxpayer expense, an increase of 34 percent over a decade, according to the National School Boards Association. Often school districts acknowledge that they cannot provide an adequate education, and willingly pay for private tuition.

But with an increasing number of parents rejecting public school placements without trying them, courts are grappling with when these plans are appropriate, and whether parents must try them."
-via NY Times

In certain states, different agencies handle the cases - and the plans - for children before and after they begin school. This "relay" is adding to the problem, some officials say. Combined with the lack of guidance from court rulings, parents -and school districts - are being left in a limbo where some say the number of these cases is limited while others fear the cost will be unmanageable.

To read the entire article, click above. You'll find the title interesting - as it reveals a certain slant. But then again I have a nephew with a disability so I know the importance of providing for the specific needs of a child in his or her IEP plan.


Anonymous said...

My daughter is special needs and we've been lucky so far in getting what's necessary to help her. But my heart goes out to parents when it's not possible in the school district and things are out of pocket. How are they supposed to afford it?


Ruth said...

That's a question I see parents face every day. I think clear guidance would be helpful here in planning. I also hope that school districts and parents can find ways to work together to create more cost effective solutions - perhaps some of these resources could be provided in i public schools on a state or county basis at a cheaper rate than private schools , for example. Being cost conscious doesn't have to mean saying no and closing doors. It might mean getting creative though.