A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Court Affirms Failing to Collaborate Gives Reason to Deny Tuition Reimbursement Under the IDEA

By: Sean P. Dugan, Law Clerk
Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq.

On June 8, 2021, the U.S. District Court of New Jersey affirmed the ruling of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) in I.G. et al. v. Linden City Board of Education that the parents of a student with a disability who unilaterally placed their child in a private school were not entitled to tuition reimbursement.

In Linden City, the parents of the student sought reimbursement for the private school tuition. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), a parent who does not believe that their child is being provided a free appropriate public education by the school district may enroll their child in a different school and seek tuition reimbursement for the alternative placement if certain criteria are met. Courts can reduce or deny the amount of tuition reimbursement if, “1) the parents did not inform the district at the most recent [individualized education program] IEP meeting that they were rejecting the IEP or their intention to enroll the child in an out of district placement…; 2) the parents failed to provide written notice to the district at least 10 business days prior to removal of their intent to unilaterally remove the student and seek reimbursement; 3) the district proposed a reevaluation prior to the removal and the parents did not make the student available for reevaluation; or 4) a judicial body finds the parental actions unreasonable.”

On July 24, 2020, the ALJ denied the parents’ request for tuition reimbursement for failing to act reasonably. The parents met with the school on August 14, 2019 at an IEP meeting and did not reject the IEP proposal. Two days later, the parents’ counsel notified the school district that they rejected the IEP and would unilaterally place their child in a private school if the school did not do so, despite already enrolling the child at the school. The parents also did not state their reason for rejecting the IEP and  failed to communicate with the school during the IEP process.

The Court agreed with the ALJ’s assessment that the parents failed to participate in a collaborative process with the school district, stating, “the IDEA was not meant to fund a private placement ‘when parents have not given the public school a good faith opportunity to meet its obligations.”’

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About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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