In Doe v. East Lyme Board of Education
, the parent of an autistic child reached an agreement for an IEP under which the parent paid for the child's tuition at a private school and the school district paid for certain related services. When the parent came to develop a new IEP for the next school year, the school district refused to continue to pay for the related services and suggested that the student at a public school in the district and offered certain services, which the parent rejected. The parent advised the school district that the student would stay at the private school and that she expected the school district to continue to pay for the related services. The school district did not provide tuition for the school or the related services that it had previously paid for and the expenses were absorbed by the parent. The next year, the parent advised the school district that unless they provided a satisfactory IEP, the child would continue to attend the private school. She demanded reimbursement of her expenses for the related services. The school district refused to pay, claiming that the child's enrollment at the private school terminated its obligations under IDEA.
The parent filed for a due process hearing, seeking reimbursement of tuition and related services and claiming that the school district had failed to provide the child with FAPE under the IDEA and Connecticut law. The hearing officer ruled in favor of the school district, holding that the school district had offered FAPE during the relevant years and because the private school idd not provide special educational services, it was an inappropriate placement.
The parent then sought judicial review in the District Court for the District of Connecticut. The parties cross-moved for summary judgment based on the administrative record. The District Court held that the school district had offered the student FAPE in the second year at issue and even though it not propose an IEP in the third year, the parent was not entitled to tuition reimbursement because the school was an inappropriate placement. However, the Court held that the school district had violated the stay-put provision of IDEA, which, it held, required it to pay for the related services that the parent had paid for. (The Court refused to require the school district to pay for services that the parent had not paid for because of the expense.)
The parties cross-appealed. The school district's position was that the student's enrollment at the private school terminated its obligations under IDEA altogether and that a stay-put claim cannot be sustained where the school district prevailed on the FAPE claim. The parent's position was that the school district had not provided the student with FAPE and that the school was an appropriate placement.
The Second Circuit held that the school district had offered an adequate IEP and placement in the second year at issue. The Court further held that the private school was not a proper placement.and even though the school district had failed to propose an IEP and accordingly did not provide FAPE, the school district did not have to pay for the tuition.
The Court held that attendance at the private school, which was outside the district, did not terminate the school district's obligation to provide FAPE. Since the school district had not proposed an IEP, it had violated the student's right to FAPE.
The Court held that the student's stay-put placement was the placement on the student's last implemented IEP. By refusing to pay for the services set out in that IEP in the subsequent school years constituted a violation of the stay-put requirement. The Court further held that a claim for tuition reimbursement pursuant to the stay-put provision is evaluated independently from the evaluation of a claim for tuition reimbursement pursuant to the inadequacy of an IEP. The Court held that reimbursement is only available from the time that administrative proceedings were commenced, not from the time an impasse was reached between the parent and the school district.
The Court agreed that the school district had to reimburse the entire cost of the services that it was required to provide, not just the amount that that the parent was able to pay for. To hold otherwise would allow the school district to benefit from the parent's financial circumstances. The Court held, however, to require the school district to pay to the parent more than she paid was impermissible, but that the school district could provide compensatory education.
A copy of the decision in this case can be found here