If your child attends private school and you think he might have a learning disability, can you ask the public school to evaluate your child—at no cost to you? The short answer is yes.
The longer answer: The Child Find mandate in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that public schools must look for, find and evaluate children with disabilities. That includes children who attend private school.
If the public school suspects that a private school student has a disability, it must pay for and conduct the evaluation. Find out more about how Child Find works.
You can also request an evaluation by writing a letter to the director of special education for your public school district.
What if the school finds your child is eligible for special education?
If the public school evaluates your child and finds that he’s eligible for special education, you have two options.
- You can enroll your child in your local public school and receive full access to those special education services.
- You can keep your child in private school. He won’t have the right to an Individualized Education Program (IEP). However, the public school may create a “services plan” that’s similar to an IEP. Plans like these often offer more limited services than IEPs.
Schools districts set aside a certain portion of federal IDEA funds to provide these special education services to private school students. School districts aren’t required to use their own funds. The services may be provided at your child’s private school. It’s up to the public school to make that decision.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also may apply. Section 504 applies if your child’s private school gets federal money. ADA applies to all private schools, except for religiously controlled schools.
Both laws prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and may provide for “reasonable” accommodations for students with disabilities, such as providing extra time on tests.
Just because your child is enrolled in private school doesn’t mean he can’t get evaluated for special education. Being aware of your options can help you find the right school setting for your child to succeed.