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Tuition reimbursement reduced by 75% where parents failed to make student available for intake interview, precluding placement.

J.G. v. Scarsdale Union Free School District, 58 IDELR 16 (S.D.N.Y. 2011):  A U.S. District Court awarded parents of a student with an emotional disability tuition reimbursement for their unilateral placement of their daughter.  However, in light of the parents’ failure to make the student available for an intake interview, the Court reduced the award by 75%.

The student was very successful early in high school, but developed emotional issues , including suicide ideation, that ultimately had an adverse effect on her academic performance and school attendance.  In light of her emotional difficulties, the parents placed her in private programs in Vermont and, ultimately, in Montana.  Despite the unilateral placement, the parents continued to work with the school district to develop an IEP and find an appropriate program.  However, each of the potential programs at which the student would be placed required an intake interview with the student.  The parents decided not to bring the student home for such an interview, based on advice from their mental health professionals that such a visit could have negative effects on the student’s emotional state.  Accordingly, since the student was never available for an intake interview, none of the potential public placements accepted her.

In light of the district’s failure to provide a FAPE, and the appropriateness of the private program selected by the parents, the Court determined that the parents were entitled to reimbursement.  However, despite the parents’ willingness to visit potential public placements, their failure to make the student available for an intake precluded the district from recommending an appropriate program.  Therefore, reimbursement was awarded, but reduced by 75%.

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