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For Students with Special Needs


All School Districts are required by law to provide students with a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE)

If your school has failed to meet this legal requirement, we recommend that you inform your District that you intend to place your child in a private school at public expense.


What do I do if I think my child’s placement should be in a private school?

In some cases, the most appropriate placement for a child is in a private school. When this placement decision is made by the IEP team or placement group in the public school, the public school pays the cost of the private school.

Sometimes a parent may feel that a recommended public school placement is not appropriate for his or her child. The parent may reject that placement and decide to enroll his or her child in a private school. If you find yourself facing this decision and you want the public school to reimburse you for the cost of the private school, there are several things you need to know.

1. A court or a hearing officer may require the school district to reimburse you if the court or hearing officer decides that:

(a) the public school did not make FAPE available in a timely manner prior to your child’s enrollment in the private school, and

(b) the private placement is appropriate.

2. Your request for reimbursement may be reduced or denied if, before enrolling your child in the private school:

(a) at the most recent IEP meeting, you did not inform the school that you were rejecting the proposed placement (including stating your concerns) and intended to enroll your child in a private school at public expense, or

(b) at least 10 business days prior to removing your child from the public school, you did not give the school written notice.

The model letter below is an example of a letter you might send if you decide to enroll your child in a private school and want the public school to pay for it.

Once you have sent this letter to the school, you will also need to make a request for a due process hearing so that a hearing officer can decide whether or not the public school must reimburse you for the costs of the private school. See the separate resource page (and sample letter) on due process.

General letter-writing tips

When writing any business letter, it is important to keep it short and to the point. First, start by asking yourself the following questions and state the answers in your letter:

  •  Why am I writing?

  • What are my specific concerns?

  • What are my questions?

  • What would I like the person to do about this situation?

  • What sort of response do I want: a letter, a meeting, a phone call, or something else?

Each letter you write should include the following basic information:

  • Put the date on your letter.

  • Give your child’s full name and the name of your child’s main teacher or current class placement.

  • Say what you want, rather than what you don’t want. Keep it simple.

  • Give your address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.

  • Always end your letter with a “thank you.”

 What are some other tips to keep in mind?

 You want to make a good impression so that the person reading your letter will understand your request and say “yes.” Remember, this person may not know you, your child, or your child’s situation. Keep the tone of your letter pleasant and businesslike. Give the facts without letting anger, frustration, blame, or other negative emotions creep in. Some letter-writing tips include:

  • After you write your first draft, put the letter aside for a day or two. Then look at it again and revise it with fresh eyes.

  • Read your letter as though you are the person receiving it. Is your request clear? Have you included the important facts? Does your letter ramble on and on? Is it likely to offend, or is the tone businesslike?

  • Have someone else read your letter for you. Is your reason for writing clear? Can the reader tell what you are asking for? Would the reader say “yes” if he or she received this letter? Can your letter be improved?

  • Use spell check and grammar check on the computer. Or ask someone reliable to edit your letter before you send it.

  • Keep a copy for your records.


Model Letter

Today’s Date (include month, day, and year)

Your Name
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Daytime telephone number

Name of Principal or Special Education Administrator
Name of School
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear (Principal’s or Administrator’s name),

My son/daughter, (child’s name), is a special education student in the ( _ ) grade in (name of teacher)’s class at (name of school). Recently, I attended a meeting to determine (child’s name)’s school placement. I am writing to inform you that I reject the proposed placement for (child’s name), and intend to enroll him/her in a private school at public expense. At the most recent IEP meeting, held on (date), I informed the other team members of my decision.

The reasons for my decision are as follows: (Keep this section brief, list specifics for why you believe the public school placement is not appropriate for your child).

 (Child’s name) will be attending (name of private school), effective (date).

Should you wish to discuss this matter further, I can be reached at (give your phone number). Thank you for your time.



Your name

cc: your child’s principal (if letter is addressed to an administrator)
your child’s teacher(s)

Note: The “cc:” at the bottom of the letter means you are sending a copy of your letter to the people listed after the cc.



Would you like to read another letter?

Discussing a problem

Requesting a copy of your child’s records

Requesting an evaluation for special education services

Requesting an independent evaluation

Requesting a meeting to review your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Requesting a change in your child’s placement

Informing the school that you intend to place your child in a private school at public expense
(You’re already here)

Requesting prior written notice

Requesting mediation to resolve a conflict

Requesting a due process hearing to resolve a conflict

Filing a complaint with the State to resolve a conflict

Reprinted with permission from

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