IDEA 2004 and Private Schools

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I work at a small private school and two of our students have a current IEP.  The staff was told that because we are a private school, we are not obligated to service the IEP. This doesn’t sound right, is it correct?

It depends. IDEA 2004 does not apply to private schools. Private schools are not covered under IDEA, the special education law.

If a public school places a child with an IEP in a private spec ed school as a part of the IEP, then the public school remains responsible for ensuring that the private school implements the IEP.

Children who attend public schools are entitled to a free appropriate education and an IEP, and they receive funding from the federal government. Private schools do not receive this funding and are not required to provide a free appropriate education or an IEP. They are not required to provide special education services to children with disabilities.

Private schools are bound by Section 504 and cannot discriminate against a child with a disability for reasons related to the disability and might be responsible for providing modifications, accommodations, and access to educational opportunities (such as a ramp for a child in a wheelchair).

Public schools may still have responsibilities for children with disabilities who are enrolled in private schools.

  1. If a child is enrolled in private school, they have been tested and qualify for an IEP, can the school refuse to give an IEP unless you enroll them in their school? I know they can give an ISP but that was not even offered. This is in NC.

  2. I work in an Independent Catholic high school and do provide support for varied learning needs through a support plan but we want to know when students apply if they currently have a support plan and a lot of parents withhold this information. Is it legal to ask an applicant’s current teacher to indicate on their recommendation if a student has academic support and what is provided?

  3. A student is attending an independent/private school who does not receive any federal funding. This student has a level of hearing loss that requires an assistive technoloty device. Is the private school obligated to purchase this device for the student?

  4. What happens when a child is parentally placed at a private school, but the public school district does bot provide services, or child fins. The Private school provides ISP plans and services with parent consent to test and/or evaluate, but not with parent input or attendance at meetings. Parents do not sign off on the IEP since they are not attending. Is this legal?

    • Sally, When a parent feels that a district has not met their responsibilities under the federal IDEA law, despite efforts by the parent to work with the school, the law gives them several dispute resolution processes to use. Your state parent training and information project, & disability rights center can assist you. There are also many resources on these processes on this website.

      • For a little background, I have previously left public 2 years ago because I had to file a complaint on behalf of my students for them not following students accommodations , bips and procedural safeguards of IEPs.

    • You are asking for a legal opinion. We don’t give legal advice on the blog. If you need an answer, I suggest you consult with an attorney who has expertise in special education law.

  5. My child is currently in a new private school and is receiving services from the District as he’s always done in the past when he was at another private school in the same school district. He already started his services which does not require any resources nor time from the new school. He is also not being pulled out of any core classes (only 20 minutes per week during study hall only). He has an IEP like the other IEP students at the same new school who are also receiving the same service. However I was just informed by the school that we have to terminate his IEP and provide services after school privately or else we would have to switch schools. Is that legal?

  6. Hello, I recently heard that Districts are responsible for transporting students to their chosen Private Schools. In Arizona, our students receive a Scholarship to attend Private Schools, but it usually isn’t used for transportation. My question is, is this true?

    Thanks Pete!


    • The issue of a public school’s responsibility toward private issue has arisen just recently. I believe schools are considering what they can and want to do. So it is important to reach out to your state education agency to find out what they tell school districts.

  7. I run a program at a private college preparatory high school and we have our own criteria on eligibility, accommodations qualifications, etc. We are not a special education program and only provide accommodations, not modifications to curriculum, etc. We require this documentation for eligibility, and create a plan to provide support services that include testing accommodations, etc. ACT denied an accommodation we requested and quoted ADA vs IDEA as their criteria for denying it, plus that it wasn’t detailed on his plan, even if they have never required that before, which the student uses consistently on all tests. What argument can I present to them since he is still in HS and should be covered by IDEA, yes? Thank you!

  8. My 3-year old has been attending a private school since last September. Her teacher suggested her to be evaluated for special needs at public school. She has just been diagnosed as special education needs in communication and language. The public school recommends her to start the special program coming Monday. Should the private school reimburse the tuition for the rest school months or days to us? We have only one installment to pay now, while it is 3.5 months before the end of school year. We are not a rich family. The tuition has been challenging for us. Thank you in advance for your advice!

    • Why isn’t the public school providing services with in the private school? Even though the private school doesn’t offer those services in their school the public school can still provide them at her home campus (private school).

  9. My daughter is enrolled in private school (parent placed) for kindergarten and is deaf with cochlear implants. We live in New Jersey. She was told she cannot receive services for a teacher of the deaf this year because she was enrolled after June. However, she is still being told that she may not get teacher of the deaf services next year either. Is this legal? I thought Idea funding applied to private school too.

  10. My daughter attends private school and has a service plan at the local public school. They will not write in any accommodations so I asked for a 504 meeting. They are telling me that they can’t write a 504 plan for her to be followed at her private school. They’ll only write what it would look like if she attended public school. Is this accurate? She had a 504 plan at her previous public school that followed her to her private school with no problem. They said the only reason that was okay was because she was going to return to the public school. Since she didn’t they say they don’t have to do that. That doesn’t seem correct could someone offer some advice on this? Thank you!

    • Speaking of private school. Had a child with two near-death food allergy reactions in public school. We had never heard of a 504 plan and the school never offered. We moved him to private school (much smaller school). I have learned quite a bit about Section 504 thru research but not sure if public school was obligated under child find, evaluation, etc. although knowing he had an epi pen at public school. Procedural issues with Section 504 and FAPE? ThanksJoin the discussion…

    • If she is parentally placed in the private school, then you probably won’t have much luck with the district. They are only required to determine if a child is entitled to special education services under Child Find. After that determination, if you decide to place your child in a private school you really have given up most of your rights under IDEA.

      Some things may be different for your State too, but it’s unlikely that your district will be able to “force” a private school to follow a 504 plan written by the district.

      If your daughter had an IEP or is determined to be eligible for sped services you MAY have more luck – but even then, the IEP team can decide what services and accommodations are written into service plan, but the private school still doesn’t HAVE to follow them

      • Help! my child has been attending a private school year several years, and I requested an initial eval to see if he qualifies for spec ed; and shared diagnosis and recommendations from several doctors..still the school/district refuses to even evaluate him..say they don’t suspect a disability ..though it appears he should qualify under “other health impairment” and documented challenges; he’s already repeated a grade. Mediation appears to be next..but goodness; doesn’t the law include an eval?

  11. What is the law on public schools responsibility for writing an IEP for a private school student (parentally placed) if the child is not going to attend the public school but the parent wants an IEP for standardized testing? Can accommodations be outlined in a Service Plan, and will they be honored for the testing?

  12. My son is a straight A brilliant student. But he had ADHD and ODD and behavior issues.At his private school I asked for an IEP but they said they do not do that. They only do behavioral plans. I asked this school year for a behavioral plan. The principal took 4 months to even try to schedule one. And we finally met in January. He has been on a plan for a few weeks. We never met to see how it was going. She just called today to say she wasn’t going to allow re-enrollment next year. What can I do? Should I go to the administration and complain because they’ve never provided accommodations for my son? He got suspended twice in a month for literally playing around too much. He is never violent nor harms others.

    • Is your son placed by you or his home public school district? If it is by you, then yes they have a right to not allow re-enrollment the following year as they are not mandated to provide your child with an education. If the child is placed there by his public home district then the answer changes.

  13. My Child attends a private school in TN and I pay $1000 extra a year ( in addition to tuition) for her to be in resource classes for math and English. I just got an email stating that I need to pay an additional $200 for an “IEP fee.” Her IEP literally took five minutes it was a simple checklist that I went over with her teacher. Is this illegal for them to charge an additional $200 for some bogus IEP Fee? She is in seventh grade. She has one teacher for resource. She has an ADHD diagnosis.

  14. I am working with a family that has a child placed in a private school who receives some services through the public school district. The problem is not that the district is denying services, but rather that the location for providing those services is a two hour bus ride away. There is another public school (in the same district) that offers those same services about six blocks from their home, but the school district says they cannot receive services at the school close by because the child is not a student there. They are saying all private school students who receive public school services must receive them at the school far away. Is this legal?

    • It probably comes down to who is making the decision. If you have not written to the special ed director, do so. If they say no take the request to their boss, etc. Each district should have a procedure for appealing decisions. You can also use the state dispute resolution process. Your state parent training & information project may have some experience dealing with this situation.

  15. My son is attending a private school, they are following his IEP recommendations, extended time 1.5, teachers notes access to lap top, calculator, extra help from each teacher at end of day as needed, they are going above and beyond. They are not monitoring his goals though and reporting to public school. Public school system wants to remove his IEP because they are not providing services. He is on track to get a diploma and go to college as long as the IEP stays in place and we are only looking at colleges that offer Special Education Resources and programs. I need to know can the local public school strip our son of the IEP due to the fact they are not providing services? Please advise.

  16. My son is attending a private school last year we entered the school with a IEP he received speech threw the public school.This year the private school fired both principles and brought back a 70 year old retired temp. This Temp principle is targeting my son she is not a supporter of Autism or any special needs. She is trying to find a reason to have us kicked out but my son is a good student is not great in language but great in math. Last year my son learned to read and write in 3rd grade, This year he is reading chapter books and keeps moving up. We chose this school for the small class size and the same class stays together up to 8th grade. We have a tutor, speech and behavior therapist.out sourced we pay for. Can this school kick us out because my son has a label with Autism?

  17. My son has a severe speech dysfluency (stutter) and a neurological processing disorder and dyslexia. He attends a private catholic school but he does have an IEP through the public school system and receives speech therapy 2x/week at the public school (we transport him there). He is receiving a 100% scholarship based on his special needs through the catholic diocese. This year has been an issue with the teacher not willing to accommodate his needs. She is not giving him the agreed upon accommodations and keeps pressuring him to do oral presentations in front on the entire school. I have spoken to her and the principal several times and the issue does not change. Do we have any right in a private school? He has documented disabilities from both the psychologist and speech therapist.

  18. If a private school were to have government bonds for construction and property, would that be receiving government money and thus have to provide for students with a disability?

  19. My daughter is 3 years old and has Down Syndrome. She’s been in private preschool fully mainstreamed for 2 years and doing well (least restrictive environment). When she turned 3, we requested that she receive ST, OT, and PT only thru the public school system while remaining in private school full time. The district said if she remains enrolled in private school, they could only offer ST because it’s a “direct” service, but said they have no funds at this time to provide OT or PT (“related services”) unless we enroll her in the half day program in the PPCD unit (not the least restrictive environment). Can they do this?

  20. Can i put my daughter in a private religious school with an IEP in a will they were still able to receive services through the public school? I got the Special Education Right and Responsibilities handbook and it says a child can go to a private school and possibly receive services at the public school if the budget had enough, this is for California residents, we are in San diego my daughter requires speech therapy and occupational therapy.

  21. Four years ago after several civil rights complaints and idea complaints, I filed a 10 day notice of intent of parental placement in a private school with our school district. They agreed during mediation to pay for the (very unusual) private placement. Fast forward. He has had no IEP for the last 4 years. At the private school, each class and service is customized to his needs and changing goals/classes/services takes less than 2 days if it is needed. His mediated agreement has expired and we figure he needs two more years to graduate…he’ll be 21 also. However, now the school is saying they need an IEP meeting. The private school does not do IEP’s. My son went from flunking 8th grade and being reccommended for residential treatment to a 3.0 GPA and being on track. Can I use stay put? Is an IEP required? What can I do?

  22. I need to know if the public school is required to continue an IEP yrly on my child even though he is in private school? Wanting help with transition service requirements of iep. Thank you

  23. what if the private school refuses to provide simple behavior modifications as laid out by the child’s psychologist. I have a client whose child was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The school is refusing to provide a behavior mod plan b/c they feel she requires “stricter discipline.”

    • is it necessary that this child be diagnosed as having a disability? or an IEP? Can’t the private school simply allow test time limits to be changed?

      • For standardized tests, yes it is necessary for a child to have an IEP or 504 plan saying it is required. For classroom assessments, any good teacher should give the child the time they need to complete the test.

  24. Jennifer – It would not hurt to get a team meeting together and ask about a laptop. If they refuse they must put refusal in “prior written notice’. You can request a technology evaluation be done by the school (in writing) to see what the recommendations would be. The school should be open to that. Make sure you sign the school’s evaluation request form or the 60 day clock for them to get it done will not start. Once you get the results they may just get the laptop. If you do not agree with the results you may get an outside evaluation and the school must consider it. My guess is that all of this will be more trouble than just getting your child the laptop.

  25. My daughter has been placed at a private therapeutic school at public expense due to FAPE. This private school requires purchase of school supplies and textbooks (so the students can keep and write in the books) and this year the upper school students require a laptop or better in the classroom. Is the public school responsible for these extra costs? Must the public school supply the required technology on loan? I paid the public school’s registration fees but am stilled being required to pay for the new textbooks. I also cannot afford a laptop for my daughter. Her IEP requires the use of a word processing device but the private school now requires a laptop or better.

  26. My child has ‘graduated’ from the need for alternate BSP placement since the leveled BSP was so successful (yay) but this means being zoned for our neighborhood school where he was traumatized and led to the BSP alternate placement in the first place (boo). We are considering private placement at our expense (Aspie ADHD with an Einstein leaning). At present we’re on an IEP. Wrights can you be less ambiguous about the “might be responsible for…” statement in regard to Section 504? The public school would like to move us to a 504 which I would not accept based on the LEA’s inability to be consistent in administration of our IEP, but I WOULD welcome this as added protection in Private school. (Not so great public school district vs most awesome private placement, child excels academically).

  27. My son is placed in a private school that focuses on his specific disability due to Stay Put law. We are currently in Due Process and the DOE is asking me to sign consent of release of information for ALL school records. My question is do I have to give them access to all records or do they have to be specific as to what they need? The case is still pending decision and I don’t want them to have card blanc to get his personal information but am willing to let them get what they need for their IEP. Can I ask for them to be more specific? I also don’t agree with the current IEP that is in litigation it is way off. What to do??

  28. How does special education apply to students who have an IEP and are placed in a private day treatment program by the court which within this day treatment program is a public school district that provides education. This district considers this program an alternative program however, it is still a public school district that receives state and federal funding. Last year, these students did NOT receive one credit(Or spec. ed. services for those with an IEP) after an entire semester because this district failed to provide final exams. The private agency that oversees the program also received title one monies when they had a residential program in place last year however, once they closed that program, the monies were gone. Controversy also over who provides, home school where child lives or district where program is located? If any.

  29. HIPPA regulates how medical information is shared from a medical agency to a school, but once that information is received by the school, it is considered to be educational information, regulated by FERPA. This enables a school to share a student’s information with educational personnel more freely. Therefore, neither HIPPA nor FERPA apply to how a private school handles information about a child’s medical issues. Obviously, however, any private school must handle personal student information carefully, regardless of FERPA or HIPPA, or it is vulnerable to legal action. I can imagine that a private school would feel it necessary to keep a copy of all records related to a former student, for its own legal protection.

  30. I would also like further clarification on this issue. If a parent chooses to enroll their child at the private school, is the public school, under child find, responsible for evaluating the child and making an offer of FAPE at the public school ?(of course the parents do not have to accept it). Also, does the public school still have to provide related services, such as speech or OT to a child who is not enrolled at their school?

  31. Susan, you are correct that the private school does not follow FERPA, however with medical records, I believe they still would need to comply with HIPAA regulations and information sharing.

    Valerie, certainly take a look at the info from Wrightslaw. Schools often like to push the limits of what is “screening” or for “instructional purposes” which can negate consent requirements. Other than preK screening cognitive or IQ testing is rarely given without consent. Things can be tougher with academic testing. You would need to see if just your child was tested or everyone, for what purpose, etc. If the purposes were not instruction i.e. eligibility/diagnosis then I would certainly pursue action against the school.

    Patti, visitation by parents or their evaluators/parties varies by states and then by district policy. In IL you are allowed.

  32. I’d like further clarification on this subject please…What if part of the private school’s funding is from Med-Cal (50% federal) and HUD? In CA NPSs have to sign an assurance statement that they will maintain compliance with IDEA, is that binding?

  33. Our school district is refusing to let our wrap around services (BSC) to observe and consult in the classroom settting. What are our rights & schools rights for forbidding this.

  34. Valerie: The law about the first evaluation and later reevaluations is different. The law about evaluations and reevaluations is in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, p 90-95.

    The school must obtain informed parental consent before they conduct an initial evaluation on a child. (page 94) The school is not required to obtain informed parental consent for subsequent reevaluations.

  35. Is it legal for a noneducator to have your child take an educational or IQ test without your written or oral consent?

    If so, is there a law which addresses this?

  36. Mike, because we did not live in the school district where the parochial school was located, that local school district only did the eligibility. They would not offer services or duel enrollment. However, our home school district in VA accepted the eligibility without question. After that, we submitted a complaint to the Diocese. The principal retired soon afterward. One area of discomfort is that the Diocese would not destroy or return the personal/medical information that they obtained during our effort to document our son’s disability. They do not follow FERPA either. I’m sure there is a place for small private schools in the disability picture. It’s just that there is even less oversight than in the public sector and no individual rights. I’ve come to believe that a compassionate law is more reliable than the law of compassion.

  37. In my district (Illinois based), students heading into private school with an IEP switch to an Individualized Service Plan, which although does not offer IDEA protections gives us an avenue to provide services from the public school. Typically this is limited to speech/language or other itinerant areas. Our district also handles evaluations for private parochial schools in the area, due to child find responsibility within our area.

    Susan, as a public school psych I am biased and I would recommend checking out your local district, even for potential dual enrollment options. You may want to contact the parish office or higher up in that chain to note your concerns with the parochial school.

  38. The parochial school that our son attended in VA did not recognize the IDEA, Section 504 or the ADA even though they advertized themselves as providing Title I services. We submitted a complaint to the DOE, Office of Civil Rights and they said that they did not have jurisdiction because there was no federal money going DIRECTLY to the school. Our psychologist recommended that we move our son to the public school because of the principal’s approach/attitude toward his disability and fear that the experience there would lead to permanent psychological damage. As difficult as life has been in the exponentially larger public school at times, at least we have a voice there.

  39. Our public school is paying for a private placement.

    My son’s only IEP goal for the current school year is that he will have a Guidance Counselor from the public school to provide information on post graduate plans.

    The Public school counselor made first contact in December to inform us of a January deadline for a scholarship program.
    The second contact was at 5:15 one evening inviting my son to an awards banquet the following night. His peers were notified in time to attend.

    The school’s attorney addressed this by informing us that “It is up to the private school to follow the IEP”. The school’s attorney offered to follow through with addressing the private school not following the IEP.

    Had the public school followed through with making sure that IEPs were followed, they would not be paying for a private placement.

  40. This is an interesting and evolving area, for a number of reasons. The private school universe is much more heterogeneous than the public school universe.

    The writer doesn’t say if the school in question is secular or religous.

    a) About 80% of “private schools” are in some way religious in nature (like parochial schools, attached to a particular congregation, or like Jewish day schools, associated with a general religious belief).
    b) Many religious schools used to ignore “special education students” but have in the last decade made great efforts to be inclusive — to the best of their (sometimes limited) resources.
    c) Up until X years ago (and I don’t recall the value of X) the student’s home public school was responsible for IEP etc. Now it is the public school district in which the private school is located.

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