California Free Appropriate Public Education (F.A.P.E.)

Parents may be entitled to reimbursement for the costs of placement or services they have procured for their child when the school district has failed to provide a free and appropriate public education, and the private placement or services were appropriate under the Individuals With Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and replaced services that the school district failed to provide.

Parents may receive reimbursement for their unilateral placement if the placement met the child's needs and provided the child with educational benefits. However, the parents' unilateral placement is not required to meet all requirements of the IDEA. For example, parents are not required to conform their unilateral placement to the content of the child's Individualized Educational Program (IEP), need not provide a placement that is certified by the state, and need not provide a placement in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). The placement still must have met the child's needs and provided educational benefit.

If you, as a parent, are not satisfied with the service that the school district is offering to your child, you might have options. There is a possibility that you could place your child privately, or pay out of pocket for private educational services (such as speech services), and have the school district reimburse you for payment for such services. However, in order for this to occur, certain elements must exist.

Initially, your child must either be enrolled in special education services, or be a child who is entitled to special education services but has not been identified as necessitating such services by the school district. This second category is tricky, and relies upon a theory called "Child Find." If your child has been identified as needing special education services, but the school district is not providing appropriate services, as a parent you are entitled to remove your child from those services, place him or her elsewhere, and seek reimbursement for that placement.

Initially, as a parent, you must inform the school in question of your dissatisfaction with its provided services at least 10 days prior to removal. Along with this notice, you must provide the school notice that you intend to provide private services to your child, and that you will seek reimbursement from the school district. If you then procure those private services, what you must show is that your child actually benefited academically from those services. If these elements are all in place, a parent can seek reimbursement from a school district not just for the costs of the services themselves, but any related travel costs as well. Also, in some circumstances, parents could be entitled to have the school district provide continued funding to keep their child at the private placement if that placement is shown to provide a free and appropriate public education for that child, and the school district does not have a program which can provide for that child's needs.

It is extremely important to note, however, that if a parent enrolls his or her child in a private placement without making the school district aware of his or her intention to do so, and before the school district has had a chance to provide any program to that child, the school district may not be responsible for reimbursement or to pay for the private placement. The elements described above must all be present before reimbursement or funding for a private placement can be realistic.

The elements needed to prove failure by a school to provide a free and appropriate public education can be difficult to show. Also difficult is the situation where you feel that your child should have been qualified for special education services, but was not, and then you enrolled your child in private services and are now seeking reimbursement from the school district for those services. The attorneys at Augustin Egelsee LLP have extensive experience working with school districts to obtain reimbursement for private placements and services, both with children who have been qualified and children who should have been qualified. A review of your child's cumulative school file will show which category they fit into, and also whether or not you might be entitled to seek private services or reimbursement for services that you have already obtained.

We provide effective and efficient legal representation with the goal of improving the lives of the children we represent.

Contact the Orange County unilateral placement attorneys at Augustin Egelsee, so we can help you navigate this confusing area, and get reimbursement for any costs you incurred while meeting the unique educational needs of your disabled child.

Services can be provided in Spanish and Korean, upon request.

Our law office is conveniently located in Anaheim Hills, near the 91 and 55 freeways.