The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] requires that a school district [“local educational agency” or LEA] provide an individualized program that meets the “unique” needs of your child. The program must fit your child, not the other way around. Therefore if your LEA does not have an appropriate program/class/school for your child it has a duty to find a non-public school that does meet his/her needs and pay for that placement, including all support services and transportation.

If you believe the LEA does not have an appropriate program you must be able to prove several things: 1) specifically what your child’s needs are and why the program offered by the LEA will not meet those needs and 2) why the non-public school will meet those needs.

Central to proving that case will be to have a very specific list of your child’s needs, including kind of class, size and make-up of the class, staff requirements, class strategies and curriculum and other issues that are unique to your child. For example a child’s disability may mean that s/he has a difficult time on a large campus or needs a very quiet, small classroom without distractions, noise, etc. Or a child may need a very specific educational environment/milieu – a small school exclusively focused on say children with autism or children with psychological challenges.

Finally once you have a clear sense of what your child needs you will need to compare that with what the LEA is offering – two lists of the kind of information mentioned in the previous paragraph. The greater the differences the stronger you cases for a non-public school placement.