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How to Sue Your Child With Special Need's School District for Tuition

How to Sue Your Child With Special Need's School District for Tuition

So you've decided to take legal action. Here's where to start.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to provide all students with disabilities a free appropriate public education (also known as a FAPE).  If they fail to do so, parents are entitled to sue their district for funding for their child’s private tuition and/or special education services. While this can be a complex process, there are a few simple steps parents can take to help it run more smoothly.   

Get a private comprehensive evaluation

There is no substitute for a comprehensive, private evaluation with specific and clear recommendations for your child. Not only will this clarify your child’s needs and deficits (therefore, pointing you in the right direction in terms of your solution), but it will serve as the basis of your argument, regarding what your child requires to make progress, during an IEP meeting and during an impartial hearing. 

Come up with a solution

There are many strategies involved in special education litigation which differ based on your end goal. In order to be a successful advocate for you, your lawyer will need to be clear on the objective you are shooting for. Then, your attorney can work backwards in terms of what steps must be taken to meet your desired outcome.

Get organized 

Make sure you have all of your child’s most recent evaluations, assessments, and progress reports. Document all of your communications with the school district in writing, and keep copies of everything. One of the best ways to prove that the district received something from you is to send it by fax— that way you will get an immediate delivery confirmation.

Hire an attorney you can trust

If you have made the decision to sue your school district, an attorney can help you navigate the complex legal process involved with obtaining funding for your child’s program. It can be difficult to navigate this process on your own. The key is to find someone who will walk you through it each step of the way. 


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Author: Jennifer Ratcliff is the owner and principal of Ratcliff Law, PLLC, a special education law firm in New York City, and has been practicing in this area of law since 2011. In that time, she has helped numerous families navigate the impartial hearing process and obtain funding for their children's tuition and educational services. Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law and Cornell University. See More

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