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Though Parent unilaterally placed student at a private school, the district of residence still had the obligation to provide FAPE to the student

E.T. and D.T. ex rel. E.T. v. Board of Educ. of the Pine Bush Cent. Sch. Dist., 60 IDELR 31 (S.D.N.Y. 2012)—in this case, the parents unilaterally placed the student, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and school phobia, in a private school and sought tuition reimbursement from the district. The IHO found that the district did not have an obligation to provide the student with a free appropriate public education (FAPE), thus denying the parents’ reimbursement claim, because the parents had clearly intended to enroll the student in a private school before the district could develop an IEP. The SRO affirmed the IHO’s decision and the parents brought suit in federal court for review of the SRO decision. The court found that the district’s obligation to provide FAPE to the child does not end because a child has been privately placed elsewhere. Instead, the district of residence is obligated to provide FAPE to the student, and enrollment in a private school does not extinguish that obligation. The court remanded the case back to the SRO to determine whether the district had failed to provide a FAPE to the student for the 2010-2011 school year; and if it did not, whether the parental placement was appropriate. If the parental placement was appropriate, the SRO will still consider whether, based on equitable considerations, reimbursement for all or part of the cost of the private placement is warranted.

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