Samia Ahmed Ashley Berger


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Samia Ahmed

  • Samia Ahmed

  • Ashley Berger

  • Lindsey Clodfelter

  • Mariam El-Kalay

  • Lorenzo Jarin

  • Emily Johnson


This case is between Frank and Diane G., the parents of a child with a disability, and they Hyde Park School District in NY

  • This case is between Frank and Diane G., the parents of a child with a disability, and they Hyde Park School District in NY

  • The parents sued the school district after it failed to offer their child a FAPE as defined under IDEA

  • In the end, the court ordered the school district to reimburse the parents for tuition and attorney fees.





In 4th grade Anthony was classified as learning disabled by his school district and found eligible for special education services under IDEA and state laws

  • In 4th grade Anthony was classified as learning disabled by his school district and found eligible for special education services under IDEA and state laws

  • Prior to the classification, Anthony attended private schools and continued to attend private schools afterward.

  • Anthony received an independent evaluation, which recommended that Anthony be placed in a small classroom of 12 students with a classroom aide.

  • The district developed an IEP for Anthony and placed him in a general education fourth grade class with an individual aide at a public school within the district.

  • Anthony’s mother requested an impartial hearing to discuss Anthony’s placement..



During the hearing process Anthony’s parents enrolled him at Upton Lake Christian School in a class with 14 students

  • During the hearing process Anthony’s parents enrolled him at Upton Lake Christian School in a class with 14 students

  • Both parties appealed to the State Review Officer (SRO), who affirmed the finding of the IHO.

  • The Impartial Hearing Office (IHO) found Upton Lake to be an inappropriate placement for Anthony because he was making no progress socially or academically. IHO ruled that the school district was not responsible for Anthony’s tuition costs at Upton Lake, but that the school district was responsible for providing Anthony a consultant teacher, individual aide and related services at Upton Lake. 



  • Does the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act permit a parent to receive reimbursement for a disabled child’s private school tuition if the child has not previously received special education services from a public agency?



Affirmed.

  • Affirmed.

  • The Second Circuit determined that the IDEA does not set forth a threshold requirement that a disabled child must have previously received special education in the public school system to be eligible for tuition reimbursement at private school.

  • The court explained that to hold otherwise would lead to the “unreasonable” requirement that parents keep their child in a public school special education program until it was “clear that their ‘speculation’ was borne out by a wasted year of actual failure.”

  • According to the court, the IDEA does not require parents to “jeopardize their child’s health and education in this matter in order to qualify for … reimbursement.”



One major purpose of IDEA is to provide FAPE

  • One major purpose of IDEA is to provide FAPE

  • FAPE is defined as special ed. and related services designed to meet a student’s specific needs. The education must also be reasonably calculated to provide educational benefit. This was laid out in Bd. of Educ. v. Rowley. If the state fails to provide a FAPE, then parents may place their child in a private school and, in certain circumstances, receive reimbursement for tuition.



Were Anthony’s parents eligible for reimbursement?

  • Were Anthony’s parents eligible for reimbursement?

  • TWO-PRONGED TEST (established under Burlington, 471 U.S. at 370):

  • Was the IEP proposed by the school district inappropriate?

  • The School District conceded that it was inappropriate.

  • Was the private placement appropriate to the child’s needs?

  • The school district argued that it was not, but the court holds that even though his education there did not follow the state standards for public education it was nevertheless appropriate because:



    • a) It was designed based on his specific needs (i.e., he had a smaller class size and also received individualized instruction and modifications).
    • b) He made academic and social progress.
  • The School District also argued that they had an “absolute legal defense”:

    • Interpreted one of the 1997 amendments to the IDEA (20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(10)(C)(ii)) to imply that parents may ONLY receive reimbursement for tuition if their child was PREVIOUSLY receiving special education from a public institution before they moved him or her to a private institution.


After analyzing the language and using the “traditional canons of statutory construction”, the court determined that this was NOT the intended message of the law because:

  • After analyzing the language and using the “traditional canons of statutory construction”, the court determined that this was NOT the intended message of the law because:

    • The amendment is ambiguous and therefore must be interpreted with the larger intent of IDEA in mind (to provide FAPE to all students with special needs)
    • The court does not see this amendment as restricting reimbursement to only parents whose children had previously received public special education. They read the word “previously” as in reference to IDEA’s previous requirements (prior to the 1997 amendment).


  • Therefore, the court holds that the appropriateness of reimbursement must be decided on a case-by-case basis, using the rationale of the two-pronged test.



This case establishes that families are subject to reimbursement of tuition costs if placed at a private school  

  • This case establishes that families are subject to reimbursement of tuition costs if placed at a private school  

  • Two pronged test established:

    • Was the IEP proposed by the school district inappropriate
    • Was the private placement appropriate to the child’s needs


Parents bear the burden of proving the private placement was appropriate

  • Parents bear the burden of proving the private placement was appropriate

  • Parents should provide notice to the school district that they are rejecting the placement offered and are placing their child in a private school at public expense

  • The private placement does not need to meet the FAPE standards it just needs to be appropriate in order for the family to receive reimbursement.

  • Child is not required to have received special services prior to private school placement




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