Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Out-of-district Special Ed. Placements

In ad Education Week blog posting here there is an article about a Colorado school district that has been ordered by a federal court to pay for a medical/residential type placement for a student in their district.  What is really noteworthy is that the parents did not get permission from the school district before enrolling their daughter.  They settled her at the school and then billed the district for what I am sure was a large sum of money.  My experience is that a residential placement is usually well over $100,000.

It's such a difficult situation, since I'm sure the parents were only doing what they thought was best for their child.  But I've seen how these expenses can sink a school budget.  At any rate, here was my comment:

Whew!  I have great sympathy for the parents but . . .but . . . but . . . I had a sped student who was doing fine in my class (a lower level English class but still mainstream) and in most of her other classes.  Her parents wanted her to have a residential placement and brought  their own specialists to meetings.  The school district finally agreed to a day out-of-district placement for her because they were so afraid of getting sued. 

We can’t tell the specifics of this case from the brief news report, but I have a great concern that these very, very expensive placements are sometimes driven more by a parent’s lack of understanding than by real educational need.  My principal, at that time, told me he figured that a quarter of the out-of-districts were kids we had very good programs for right at the high school.  But the district figured an out-of-district placement was less expensive than fighting a lawsuit.

As I say, I have great sympathy for the parents, but—at least with my student—I am sure she would have been better off at the high school, where she was doing fine academically, had friends, and was involved in activities.   Plus she was already receiving excellent sped services.

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