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Legal Memorandum: Reimbursement for Sectarian Parental Placements

Issue: Is Reimbursement of Parental Placement for a special education student at a Sectarian School Precluded in the State of New Jersey?

Area of Law: Education Law
Keywords: Reimbursement of parental placement; Special education; Satete's failure to provide appropriate services
Jurisdiction: Federal, New Jersey
Cited Cases: 256 F. Supp. 2d 290; 379 F.3d 61
Cited Statutes: Naples Act, N.J.S.A. 18A:46-14;
Date: 04/01/2009

Unlike the Naples Act, N.J.S.A. 18A:46-14 et seq., which generally prohibits a public school district from placing a special education student in a parochial school, reimbursement for sectarian parental placements is not forbidden.  See J.C. & D.C. o/b/o C.C. v. Passaic City Bd. of Educ., OAL Dkt. No. EDS 7644-06 (Sept. 18, 2006).  The District cannot rely on “a state law that bans payment to sectarian institutions as a basis for denying parental reimbursement when the [District] has failed to provide a FAPE and the unilateral placement is deemed appropriate under the IDEA.”  L.M. v. Evesham Twp. Bd. of Educ., 256 F. Supp. 2d 290, 298 (D.N.J. 2003). 

The law is clear that a parental private placement need not meet the same educational standards as a public school.  Florence County v. Carter, 510 U.S. 7, 14-15 (1993) (a private school utilizing two uncertified teachers does not disqualify the parents from seeking reimbursement); Bucks County Dep’t of Mental Health v. Pennsylvania, 379 F.3d 61, (3d Cir. 2004) (“although the state is required to use ‘qualified personnel’ when the state is providing [special education] services, parents are not required to find a replacement who meets the definition of ‘qualified personnel’ when the state fails to provide appropriate services and there is an IDEA violation.”).

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