A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Student Loses Stay-Put When Moving to New School District

Stay-put is the last agreed upon placement for a special education student. According to a recent decision issued by the U.S. District Court of New Jersey in Cinnaminson Township Board of Education v. K.L., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104706 (D.N.J. Aug. 9, 2016), a student loses stay-put when he or she moves from one school district to another.

During the 2013-2014 school year, special education student R.L. resided within the Berlin Borough Township Board of Education (“Berlin”). During that school year, R.L.’s parent filed for due process against Berlin regarding R.L.’s educational placement. Ultimately, on October 28, 2014, R.L.’s parent and Berlin reached a settlement agreement in which Berlin agreed to develop an individualized education program (“IEP”) placing R.L. at the Quaker School at Horsham (“Quaker School”), a private school, for the 2014-2015 school year. The settlement agreement also required R.L. to move out of Berlin no later than October 31, 2014.

Consistent with the settlement agreement, R.L. and her family left Berlin. They relocated to Cinnaminson Township, and R.L. was enrolled in the Cinnaminson Township School District (“Cinnaminson”) on October 31, 2014. Upon registration, R.L.’s parent presented the IEP from Berlin, which placed R.L. at the Quaker School. Essentially, R.L.’s parent sought Cinnaminson to fund the Quaker School placement, as that was the placement listed in her IEP developed by her previous school district. Cinnaminson did not agree to the Quaker School as R.L.’s educational placement. R.L.’s parent then filed for due process against Cinnaminson seeking funding for the Quaker School placement. On February 25, 2015, R.L.’s parent and Cinnaminson entered into a settlement agreement in which Cinnaminson agreed to pay for R.L.’s placement at the Quaker School through June 30, 2015. Importantly, this agreement explicitly stated that R.L.’s stay-put is not the Quaker School and both parties reserve all rights with respect to the issue of stay-put.

On June 3, 2015, Cinnaminson proposed a new IEP placing R.L. in a public school for the 2015-2016 school year. R.L.’s parent disagreed with Cinnaminson’s proposal and filed for due process and also filed for emergent relief regarding the stay-put issue. The Administrative Law Judge ruled that stay-put was the Quaker School pending the disposition of the underlying due process petition.

Cinnaminson appealed to the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, which overturned the Administrative Law Judge’s decision. The District Court determined that the stay-put provision under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not apply in every situation where a parent and school district have a dispute. Specifically, the District Court reasoned that when a parent unilaterally moves a child to a new school district, the stay-put provision is no longer operative. Rather, the school district’s obligation to provide a free appropriate public education is to offer and deliver comparable services to those described in the IEP created by the previous school district until a new IEP is agreed upon.

School districts are not automatically obligated to fund a private school placement when a special education student voluntarily transfers into a new school district with an IEP from the previous district placing him or her at a private school. Rather, the school district must offer comparable services and then develop a new IEP that will confer upon the student a free appropriate public education.

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Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev

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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