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Student’s parents not entitled to reimbursement for private placement where private placement was designed to address student’s drug abuse and behavior issues rather than his educational disabilities.

Forest Grove School District v. T.A., 53 IDELR 213 (D. Or. 2009):  A federal district court determined, after balancing the equities, that parents were not entitled to reimbursement for their son’s unilateral private placement.

The student, diagnosed with ADHD and depression, was placed in a private school due to his difficulties in public school.  The parents thereafter requested a hearing seeking reimbursement.  The hearing officer determined that the student was sent to the private placement “for reasons unrelated to his disabilities (i.e., substance abuse and behavioral problems)” as well his educational difficulties.  The parents placed the student in his private school on March 24, 2003, but the court determined that the parents could not have disagreed with the school district’s decision until a final decision was made (in this case, not until August 26, 2003, when the school district ultimately determined that the student was not eligible for services under IDEA or Section 504).

The court weighed several factors, but ultimately decided that, in large part because of the fact that the parents placed the student because of his drug abuse and behavioral problems (and “not because of any disability recognized by the IDEA”), reimbursement should be denied.  The court noted that “the [school district’s] responsibility under IDEA is to remedy the learning related symptoms of a disability, not to treat the underlying disability, or to treat other, non-learning related symptoms.”

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