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Are we liable for the full-year tuition in light of the wrongful dismissal process?

Fairfax, VA |

Our child started in a private school's pre-school program in September and was terminated within a couple of weeks. We had only one teacher-parents meeting during this period of time and never met the school's counsel. We offered to have our child to stay home for one day and then sent him back the second day. The school now said our child was not dismissed, but voluntarily withdrawn despite our written notice to dispute the issue. The school is now asking for the whole year tuition (~25K).

Attorney Answers 3


Most private schools have an "Enrollment Contract", which you should have signed prior to your child starting at that school. You MUST review the terms of that contract, and see what, if any, reference has been made to the School's Student handbook. While it's hard to believe that a pre-schooler can be 'expelled', most private pre-school-level institutions have a "Behavioral standard" which the parents are asked to sign in addition to, or in place of, the contract. Many
schools require Tuition Insurance Plans to be entered into, so that this kind of issue over the fees is avoided. If you were not offered that option, then it is more likely that there is a clause in the Enrollment Contract which talks about 'early termination of enrollment'.
Before you go to the expense of hiring an attorney, you MUST ask for a copy of your child's complete file from the school. Request this in writing, send the request by certified mail or priority mail with delivery confirmation, and give them a reasonable amount of time (14 days)
in which to get you the copies.
The other important thought: if things were that 'disruptive' either because of your child, or because of the way the school is run, you are most likely well-quit of that place. In addition,
if there are reports of disruptive behavior of your child, you may want to have him/her referred to a counselor who specializes in under-10-year-olds. This might be a situation of failure to identify developmental issues (loss of hearing/ loss of vision/ or neurological disorders) which should be caught as soon as possible: this is NOT to suggest any failing on your part. But it is a rare thing for a preschool or even grammar school to discharge a student based on our fact description.
Unfortunately, you are likely looking at a law suit by the school. If they do file for breach of contract, then you would have the right to counterclaim IF you have the evidence which shows that the school administration did not comply with the contract/student handbook.
You need to consult with an experienced school-law attorney.

Legal issues often depend on the specific facts in any given case or situation. Please do NOT utilize the information you receive as either a binding legal opinion in your case, nor presume that I am your counsel because I've answered a question you had. Any legal representation is accomplished by written contract ONLY, signed by each of us.

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This is a contract question that depends on exactly what you've agreed to and what you've disputed. As with any question that asks "what does my contract say, what have I agreed to, and what are my rights?" no lawyer can respond in any meaningful way without reviewing the document in question.

Here, the termination, dispute and fuition refund provisions all need to be reviewed.

PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU COMMENT, EMAIL ME OR PHONE ME. I'm only licensed in CA. This answer doesn't make me your lawyer, and neither do follow-up comments and/or emails and/or phone calls, and you shouldn't expect me to respond to your further questions if you haven't hired me. We need an actual agreement confirmed in writing before any attorney-client relationship is formed. This answer doesn't constitute legal advice, and shouldn't be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.

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Courts view contract disputes differently than many other causes of actions. As contracts are generally between parties who willingly enter into an agreement, the courts view is that the parties should know what obligations and rights they are creating. That being said there are several defenses to contracts which may be applicable. But as the last attorney accurately stated, without a careful review of the document, no attorney would be able to evaluate your rights or obligations.

Should you require any additional information, we do offer free consultations.

Sam Mansoor

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