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Legal Memorandum: Private Placement for a Disabled Student

Issue: Without an offer of FAPE, what is the appropriate New Jersey school placement for a disabled student?

Area of Law: Education Law
Keywords: Disabled children; Private placement; Tuition reimbursement
Jurisdiction: Federal, New Jersey
Cited Cases: 995 F.2d 1204; 336 F.3d 260; 190 F.3d 80; 62 F.3d 520; 231 F.3d 96; 116 N.J. 30
Cited Statutes: 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(5)(A); N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.2(a)
Date: 11/01/2006

In order to receive federal financial assistance under the IDEA, the State of New Jersey must ensure that “[t]o the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature and severity of the disability of the child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”  20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(5)(A).  In other words, a Respondent is required to offer a student special education and related services in the least restrictive environment.  N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.2(a).

Ordinarily, the law prefers mainstreaming disabled children by integrating them in regular classrooms with regular students to the greatest extent possible.  Oberti v. Bd. of Educ. of Clementon Sch. Dist., 995 F.2d 1204, 1207 (3d Cir. 1993); Carlisle Area Sch. v. Scott P., 62 F.3d 520, 535 (3d Cir. 1995).  However, parents are not held to the same mainstreaming obligations as are school boards.  Warren G. v. Cumberland County Sch. Dist., 190 F.3d 80, 84 (3d Cir. 1999); M.S. v. Bd. of Educ., 231 F.3d 96, 102 (2d Cir. 2000).  Rather, the least restrictive environment requirement is an individualized, fact-sensitive inquiry taking all considerations into account to ensure the best educational environment for J.C.  D.B. v. […]

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