Nonpublic School Placements (NPS)
Federal Laws require that all students are able to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) regardless of disability or differences in the least restrictive environment possible. The nonpublic school (NPS) is a service option available to students with special needs who are not receiving an “appropriate” education from their public school district even with the educational services or learning modifications that are in place based on their Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
NPS schools operate independently from the district but must maintain certification from the California Department of Education in order to educate students with special needs. An NPS can provide a safe and effective alternative learning environment for students with specific vulnerabilities or needs. An NPS is not a private school for general education students.
NPS placements offer supplemental assistance in a more restrictive environment with a smaller teacher-to-student ratio. Academic programs operate in accordance with state and federal education expectations, including academic tutoring, counseling, and career and college counseling. Schools are staffed with educators who provide academic instruction aligned with the state’s academic standards and support services with the goal of integrating the students into the least restrictive environment.
Eligibility and Process
The student’s IEP team will discuss if NPS is a more appropriate educational setting to meet the student’s needs. If the IEP team agrees, an NPS placement is offered. If parents feel the school district is unable to meet their child’s needs, they may request an NPS from the IEP team. Occasionally, it is necessary for a parent to file a due process complaint to seek an NPS placement or to seek reimbursement.
Alternatively, parents are free to choose how they would like their special needs child to be educated and may independently choose to place their child in a nonpublic school setting. Like parents of general education students, parents can unilaterally place their child in an NPS if they are not satisfied with the district’s program and plan to either fund the change of placement on their own or seek reimbursement. When a parent decides to unilaterally place their student in a nonpublic school, there are certain procedural requirements the parent must follow in order to seek reimbursement.
If parents intend to seek funding or reimbursement from the district for an NPS placement, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that parents must provide written notice to the school 10 days prior to removing the student. This 10-day period gives the district a chance to reconsider the IEP’s decision.
However, providing a 10-day notice does not entitle families to a reimbursement. This is just one of many procedural requirements under the IDEA.
Due Process Hearing
If there is disagreement between the placement requests made by the student’s parents and the IEP team’s district program, a due process complaint may be the next appropriate step to take. Under the IDEA, a child’s family can file a due process complaint regarding the educational placement of their child and seek funding or reimbursement for their continued education at an NPS. The purpose of a due process hearing is to help resolve disagreements about a student’s education and ensure all children receive a free and appropriate public education.
Due process hearings for nonpublic school placement can be difficult and tedious. Working with an experienced education rights attorney can help you protect the rights of your child and advocate for their learning needs.
When Should Someone Seek the Services of a Special Education Attorney?
Receiving district funding for your child to attend a nonpublic school is challenging and requires a deep understanding of special education law. Nuances throughout education law, especially when state funding is involved, can create tough cases. Working with an experienced special education attorney will maximize your probability of success in receiving funding and support from the district and the ideal educational placement for your child.
Before making a 10-day offer and unilaterally placing their child in an NPS, it is important for parents to seek legal advice to see if they have a viable case for reimbursement. NPS tuition can range from $28,000 – $40,000 per year, so understanding all options and possibilities with the help of an experienced special education attorney can be essential to each individual case.
Here’s How We Can Help
Jennifer Chang, education rights attorney, works vigorously to protect the rights students have to a free and appropriate education under both federal and state laws, such as the IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.