Special Education

Laws, regulations and rules that pertain to special education in Illinois:

  • IDEA 2004
  • Federal regulations
  • Illinois School Code
  • Illinois administrative code – The administrative code as it applies to special education in Illinois is currently under revision.  The proposed regulations do include some significant changes.
  • Individual school district’s policies and procedures
  • A school district’s policies and procedures may afford a student more protections than the federal and state laws and regulations
  • .

Recent Case Law

Forest Grove School District v. T.A.

Parents who may need to consider placement of their child in a therapeutic day school or residential school can breathe a sigh of relief that the United States Supreme Court sided with the parents of a student who had ADHD and learning disabilities that the teachers had documented since the early grades.  Yet the school district refused to provide any services for the student, claiming that he did not qualify.  Finally, when the student was entering junior year of high school and the parents had been turned down again for services, the parents placed the student in a private school that served students with learning disabilities and sued the school district.  The school district relied on language in IDEA to argue that the parents were not eligible for reimbursement for the private school tuition because the student had never received special education and related services in the public school.

The Supreme Court reaffirmed previous decisions in Sch. Comm. of Burlington v. Dept. of Ed. of Massachusetts and Florence Co. School District v. Carter that if a school district does not offer a free appropriate public education through an IEP and an appropriate placement, parents may notify the school district, unilaterally place their child in a private school and then sue the district for reimbursement.  Restating the cautionary statement that parents who placce their child privately, “do so at their own peril,” the Court reminded school districts of their fundametnal obligation under IDEA to provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities.  The Court held that the fact that the student had not previously received special education services was not an absolute bar to the parents’ right to receive reimbursement.  More importantly, the Court firmly squelched the school district’s idea that if they never found the student eligible for services, then the parents could never prove that the services the student received were not appropriate.

That said, the Supreme Court did not write an opinion that invites parents to flee with their children to a military school or an outdoorsy educational experience out West.  The parents bear the responsibility of proving that the placement and IEP proposed by the school district was not adequate and the school the parents chose was appropriate.  Not all private schools will have the qualities or the properly credentialed staff to pass that test, even if they might satisfy the parents’ concern that their child is being educated in a structured, safe environment, away from bad influences.

If you are thinking of placing your child in a private school, it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of a professional or professionals.