The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today in Forest Grove School District v. T.A. that disabled students that the public schools unreasonably failed to identify as disabled don’t have to wait to seek placement in a private school and reimbursement for those costs.
This ruling seems to give families with disabled children unilateral access to vouchers for private school if they can later prove that the public schools failed to provide adequate services or unreasonably failed to identify the disability. The families assume the financial risk if they act unilaterally, but they can be fully reimbursed for their expenses if they are proven right. The majority reasoned that delays were so long in adjudicating these disputes, that children would be denied their right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) if they had to wait:
“Our decision rested in part on the fact that administrative and judicial reviewof a parent’s complaint often takes years. We concluded that, having mandated that participating States provide a FAPE for every student, Congress could not have intended to require parents to either accept an inadequate public-school education pending adjudication of their claim or bear the cost of a private education if the court ultimately determined that the private placement was proper under the Act.” (see p. 7 )
Now all we need to do is to grant to all children what we have given to disabled children. Why should any child, disabled or not, be made to wait for an appropriate education? Why can’t all parents seek a unilateral private placement and sue to be reimbursed if they can demonstrate that the public schools were failing to provide an appropriate education?
Even better, why should we make parents prove to a court that the education in the public schools was not appropriate? Why not let the parents be the judge of the appropriateness of the education being offered?
Updated: I just noticed that Matt made a similar argument a while back.