Children who are placed by their parents in private schools are also protected under IDEA through Child Find. A private school is defined in the law as any school, including charter or religious schools, which meet the federal definition of an elementary or a secondary school. Any child attending a private school who is suspected of having a disability must be referred to the local education agency (the district where the private school is located) for evaluation services.
Each local education agency (LEA) must locate, identify and evaluate all children who are attending private schools within their district. This Child Find process must be completed in the same time period which is required for those students attending public schools. If the child is found to have a disability and is enrolled in a private school, there are different requirements for providing special education and related services in private schools as there are in public school settings.
According to the law, children with disabilities who are parentally placed in a private school may be provided special education or related services under a service plan. This service plan is similar to an individualized education plan. The local education agency must initiate and conduct meetings to develop, review and revise service plans in order to provide special education to students placed in private school settings. On-going consultation by the LEA with the private school is also a requirement under IDEA.
A proportion of funding based on a specified formula from special education federal money must be given to the private school in order to provide these special education and related services to children with disabilities. Child count information is required each year by December 1st by the federal government. Information on students with disabilities is collected by both private schools and public schools and is submitted by the LEA to the federal government in order to continue to receive funding under IDEA.
IDEA does not prohibit services at a private school, however, all special education and related services at these sites must be secular, neutral and non-ideological. Transportation is not a requirement of IDEA. However, if it is necessary for the child to benefit from or participate in special education or related services, transportation from the child’s home (or school) to a site other than the private school is required under the law.
Other provisions regarding private school and the education of children with disabilities include that highly qualified special education teacher requirements do not apply to private school personnel, parental consent must be given for exchange of information between the LEA and the private school as well as the requirement that parental consent must be given for permission to evaluate. There is a due process complaint process also included which allows for complaints regarding Child Find and the local education agency. However, this is only permitted after the complaint has been submitted to the LEA where the private school is located.