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Q: When does a school district’s duty to provide FAPE end?
A: The Ninth Circuit made clear it does not end when a student gets enrolled in an out of district private school.
Why are we caring about the Ninth Circuit again? Because Montana is in the Ninth Circuit and rulings from the Ninth Circuit inform decisions made in Montana courts.
Ruling: Because a California district knew that the parents of a parochial school student with a disability wanted their daughter to return to public school, it erred in conditioning their request for an updated IEP on the student’s reenrollment. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a District Court ruling at 74 IDELR 231 that required the district to reimburse the parents for the student’s private placement.
Background: A California district made an expensive mistake when it refused to develop a new IEP for a middle schooler with a disability unless she left her parochial school and reenrolled in the public school system.
What you need to know: The question is not when but IF a district’s obligation to provide FAPE ends. A district’s obligation to offer FAPE to a resident student with a disability does not end when the parents enroll the student in an out-of-district private school. This means that the district must convene an IEP meeting if it has any reason to believe the parents are interested in a public program. Here, the parents sent the district three letters requesting an IEP. Had the district convened an IEP meeting, it might have avoided paying for the student’s parochial school placement.
What is the name of the case and where can you read it? The name of the case is Bellflower Unified Sch. Dist. v. Lua ex rel. K.L. U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit 10/26/20. Read it here.
As you consider these and other issues, we recommend you speak with your school lawyer or contact Bea, Kevin, Megan, Beth, and Lily by email or at 406-542-1300 to discuss these issues.