Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Are Children at Private Schools Entitled to Services Under Section 504?

The parents of a student in Baltimore have sued the school district for not providing services under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The parents of student D.L., who has ADHD and an anxiety disorder, enrolled their child in a private school several years ago. Then they requested an evaluation from the school district to see if their child was eligible for special education services.

Eventually, their lawsuit says, the city of Baltimore school district evaluated D.L. and found that he was eligible for 504 services, but not while attending a private school. When the parents filed an official complaint, the hearing officer agreed that D.L. couldn't get 504 services even if he or she was enrolled at both the private school and a public school. He had to be enrolled at a public school full time. That led to a lawsuit in 2010.

A U.S. District Court in Maryland upheld the school district's decision.

However, D.L.'s family appealed to the 4th District Court of Appeals last fall. And now the National School Boards Association and other groups are voicing their support for the district court's ruling.

"Congress did not intend through Section 504 for school districts to pay for students enrolled unilaterally in private schools by their parents," said NSBA's General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr., in a statement. "The Fourth Circuit should not expand Section 504 to require public schools to fund the education of students in private schools beyond the parameters of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act."

The NSBA is joined by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and the Virginia School Boards Association.

read more of Nirvi Shah's On Special Education article HERE.
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