Special Education Tip #1: Do Not Forget to Provide Notice of Unilateral Placement
As the school year comes to a close, perhaps you have decided to place your child in a private special education school program in September. Parents may be able to receive public funding for a private placement, but only if they can demonstrate that the District did not offer their child a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
If you intend to seek reimbursement from your public school district for a unilateral placement – that is, a private school placement made without the consent of the District – you must provide timely notice of your intention to the District’s Director of Special Education or Superintendent. Under federal law, a parent must give notice either orally at the last team meeting prior to the placement, or in writing at least ten business days before enrollment. Pay attention: notice must be provided within 10 business days, not calendar days, so be sure to subtract weekends and holidays when calculating the time. A written notice – sent by certified mail – is almost always preferable so that there will be a record that the District received notification. The notice must include a brief statement explaining why the parents are rejecting the placement proposed by the District and a statement that the parents intend to seek reimbursement for the costs of the private placement. The key word is brief. You do not need to provide a detailed or lengthy explanation of your reasons.
If you fail to provide the requisite notice to the District prior to your child’s placement, you will, with few exceptions, be barred from receiving reimbursement. This is an easy step to overlook with severe consequences, so make sure to set reminders to send timely notification.
This is the first post in a new series of articles we have started where we will provide a special education tip each week. Please check back each week for more tips and answers to frequently asked questions related to special education law. If you have questions about notice requirements, unilateral placement or any other special education issues as you begin to plan for September, please contact us for further information and advice.