Do children have rights in private school?

Special Needs Children Have Limited Rights in Private School.

Public schools (including charter schools) receive federal funding and in exchange for taking that funding, they have to abide by federal laws.  One federal law which public schools have to follow is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).  The IDEA gives extensive rights to children with disabilities   Most private schools don’t take any federal funding.  Basically, the only laws they have to abide by are any promises they make in a contract.  Most private school contracts don’t give parents any real legal rights.  With one exception, special needs children in private school only have the rights given to them by the private school.

What Rights Do Private School Students Have under the IDEA?

 If you or your child’s teachers think your child might have a  disability, you can request an evaluation done by the public school system. The public school district where your private school is located would do the evaluation.  If the public school district evaluation determines that your child is eligible for special education, you will have a choice: 1) Withdraw your child from private school and send them to public school with an Individual Education Program (“IEP“); or 2) Keep you child in private school and get an Individual Service Plan (“ISP”).  An ISP is a plan governed by the IDEA which can give your special needs child limited services.

What is an ISP for Private School Students with Disabilities?

Private schools can offer special education, but they aren’t required to. If they choose to provide it, it likely won’t be as extensive as an IEP.  Some private schools may offer an Instructional Services Plan or an Individual Service Plan, both known as ISPs. That happens when the private school works with the public school system to provide specialized services.   If you choose a private school, your child with special needs will most likely get services from your public school, and not from the private school, itself.  

ISP services are not the same services as they would get if they were enrolled in a public school with an IEP.  ISP services are limited by funding restrictions.  Your child is only entitled to what’s called “equitable services” under an ISP.  Also, you may have to travel with your child to get the ISP services after school and won’t get them during the day in the private school.

I hope this post is helpful to understand your special needs child’s rights in private school.  It’s complicated, as usual and you may need a special needs lawyer or a special needs advocate.  Feel free to contact us by clicking the link below.