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Will public school system pay for alternative schooling for special needs child entering senior year?

Short Hills, NJ |

My daughter is a Junior in high school, entering her senior year in the fall. She is currently deeply depressed and refuses to go back to school. Her doctors have said that she should be homeschooled for the rest of the year since a large reason for her depression/anxiety relates to the school itself and her inability to learn or socialize in the school. That being said, what are the long term options for her so that she can finish out her senior year and graduate high school. If we found a private school option, could we legally ask/require the school to pay or contribute to the payment of private or alternative schooling?

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Attorney answers 4


There is insufficient information to answer your question. That being said, generally if a student is classified and cannot receive an appropriate education at his or her current placement, they can request that the district find an appropriate placement. The placement will depends on the specific needs of the child and can include a private school.
If your child is currently having emotional issues which are affecting their ability to attend/perform in school, then they should be referred for an evaluation to determine classification-even if the issue is temporary. School districts will often try to find a way to not be responsible, especially this close to graduation so I do not advise that you approach this without a competent and experienced attorney who will make your child the priority. Best of luck!


You will need an education attorney to ensure that your child is appropriately classified and that the process moves quickly enough to work for her. However, what the appropriate alternative may be will possibly be disputed by the school district. For example, if they have 2 high schools and you state that she can;'t go back to one, they will likely suggest that she go to the other before they pay for a private school. Since you indicate that she may be OK to go to SOME school, they may try to insist that they try another school of their choice first. These are the types of dispute that an education attorney can assist with.

This should not be considered legal advice and is intended for educational purposes only. It does not constitute a contract for legal services between any parties. Answers are given to questions for which there may be additional facts not mentioned which might change the legal issues or consequences.


You need to speak with an education attorney ASAP - BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING FURTHER. Your daughter has rights (under the IDEA, 504 , and the ADA) that are being violated. However, If you fail to properly notify your school district, you may lose the right to ask them to reimburse you for the cost of any non-public education.

So that you do not use the wrong term with the District (who will undoubtedly take you at your word), your doctor did not probably recommend "homeschooling". He probably recommended "homebound instruction". They are not the same. The former releases the local District of any responsibility for schooling your daughter. The latter requires the local District to provide an appropriate educational program at home.

I cannot emphasize enough that you need to speak with an education attorney before you do anything further so that you fully understand the District's obligations and your choices. Otherwise, you are likely to make things worse.

Donald G. Henslee

Donald G. Henslee


I agree. You should contact an education attorney without delay.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that public schools provide a Free Appropriate Public Education for children with qualifying disabilities. You will need to consult with an attorney that focuses on helping parents of children with special needs obtain services from their school district.

In answer to your question - it depends. If your daughter has a qualifying diagnosis which impacts her ability to access her education than the district must provide her with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). If the district can not provide her with FAPE at her local home school than the parent may be able to unilaterally remove her from that school and seek reimbursement for a private placement in a due process hearing. However, this is a risky strategy and requires that the district be notified in writing and that the parents prevail at a due process hearing before being compensated. As noted by Attorney Corchnoy, you will want to speak with an attorney before pursuing this route.

This is a highly simplified answer and is not intended to be comprehensive. I have included some links to help you find local attorneys that can assist.

While I am an attorney and I practice in the area of special education the answers that I provide in this forum should not (should never) be construed as "legal advice." If you wish to receive "legal advice" I suggest that you contact me at The Law Office of Janina Botchis. Website: Email: Free Consultation: (818)253-9444 Blog: