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Parents Not Entitled to Reimbursement for Private School Placement Despite District's Denial of FAPE

August 22, 2011

The Second Circuit has reaffirmed a ruling that the parents of an 8th grade student with a specific learning disability were not entitled to reimbursement for their unilateral private placement at the Kildonan School, despite the fact that the district had violated procedural aspects of the IDEA, thus denying the student FAPE. In Davis ex rel. Christopher R. v. Wappingers Cent. Sch. Dist., 56 IDELR 248 (2nd Cir. 2011), the 2nd Circuit confirmed that the district had failed to meet the procedural requirements of the IDEA when developing an IEP for the 2004-2005 school year by 1) not having necessary staff at the IEP meeting; 2) failing to consider “appropriate evaluative data,” and 3) not providing parents with an IEP until after the school year had started. However, despite finding that these procedural violations amounted to a denial of FAPE for the 2004-2005 school year, the 2nd Circuit then looked to the final question of whether the parents’ unilateral placement was appropriate to meet the student’s needs. The 2nd Circuit determined that the private school was not appropriate, thus reaffirming that the district was not required to pay for the private placement at Kildonan. Specifically, the 2nd Circuit noted that Kildonan did not provide specially designed instruction individualized to meet the student’s needs as it had not developed a behavioral plan to address the student’s attentional issues (as had been recommended by the student’s own neuropsychologist), nor did it provide strategies or methodologies to assist the student with his significant auditory processing deficits, other than to have teachers read aloud to students. The 2nd Circuit further concluded that the parents did not provide sufficient evidence that the private school had any specific strategies to address the student’s organizational needs or difficulty completing assignments, two areas of need identified by the student’s evaluator.

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