Legality of school refusing to accept IEP students?

Discussion in 'disABILITIES Community Board' started by leebee, Feb 27, 2014.

  1. leebee

    leebee DIS Veteran

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    I work in a small K-8 school in a town without a high school, teaching math and English skills through special ed (K-5, pull-out, individualized teaching). For high school we send our students to neighboring towns' schools. This is not uncommon in this neck of the woods; several town school systems educate their kids through eighth grade and then send them for high schools to local towns with which they have "agreements." The sending towns pay tuition to the individual high schools for each student they send. MANY families move to "sending towns" for the benefit of being able to send their kids to some pretty good high schools without having to pay the taxes in those towns.

    We received a letter today from one of the high schools with which we have a high school acceptance agreement. The letter states that they will not be accepting 9th graders who need special education services (those who are on a 504 plan or IEP). They state they came to this decision using the following criteria: (1) Anticipated needs of their own town's 8th graders; (2) anticipated needs of their current high school students; (3) there are only 3 special ed teachers and the town's policy prohibits hiring more faculty/staff just to attract tuition students. To say that we, as special ed teachers, are appalled, is an understatement.

    My question is this: Is this legal? Can a town refuse to accept students because the kiddo has an IEP or 504 plan? I suspect that the lawyers might be able to get around these kinds of things, but is the accepting school leaving themselves open to lawsuit? I happen to LIVE in the town that is refusing to accept these kids, so I have a vested interest in this from both sides; what's going to happen to my taxes if my town loses a lawsuit because of their ignorance? While a concern, I am FAR more concerned with my students, as this town has a terrific special ed department, and our data over the years show that our sped kids are more successful when they go to high school in this specific town than in any of the others with which we have an agreement.

    I'd appreciate hearing opinions and information.
     
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  3. Maggie'sMom

    Maggie'sMom DIS Veteran

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    This would be better suited for the community board.

    My knowledge of the laws surrounding IEPs is growing by the day (huge issues with DD's school right now), but I'm not exceptionally versed in the law. To me, I think the other school is probably fine legally. I'm sure their lawyers reviewed the contracts underlying the "agreement" you refer to. The thing is, no school is required to accept a student from out of district, IEP or no IEP. Your school district is required by law to provide a free and appropriate education to special needs students. They have chosen to send these students out of district rather than hire the staff needed themselves. The other district is apparently finding themselves in a position where they need the space and staff to fulfill their obligations to their own students. As such, they have decided to end the agreement which had been in place to accept students from your district. Whether or not they can end that agreement now depends on what wording is in the contract regarding termination of the agreement. If there is a set expiration date for the contract which is after next school year, then yes, perhaps the other district will be obligated to accept those students. If not, or if the contract states something regarding they will accept students as long as there is space available, then the other district is in the clear to stop accepting students from your district. But the IDEA law does not force a district to provide special ed services to students residing in another district.
     
  4. Kellykins1218

    Kellykins1218 DIS Veteran

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    Since these are not students from their own district, I don't see why it would be illegal. They have established that they will not have space for the students because of their own students' needs. I don't see anything appalling in that decision.
     
  5. andrews_dad

    andrews_dad DIS Veteran

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    Each state is diff, but being out-of-district students accepted via tuition agreement I would think the district denying them is within its rights. We don't have such an agreement with the district I am employed with, but I know we have a few students who pay a tution to attend this district to avoid a local public district with a bad reputation. Each student applies and can be denied by the Super or Board due to anything, including having an IEP, discipline record, 504, etc.
     
  6. Schmeck

    Schmeck <font color=blue>Funny thing is now my 17 year old

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    It depends on what the contract states between the two towns, and how much tuition is paid by the sending town to the receiving town. Some towns charge more for a special ed student, as they cost at least twice as much to educate - sometimes more than 10X that of a regular ed student. If the receiving town was smart, they'd just charge the sending town more money for the special ed students.

    BTW, the sending towns have to pay for the kids to go to the other high school, as their tax money goes to pay for the tuition assigned each student. Where else do they think that money is coming from? :confused3 Or do they think the kids go to the other school for free?

    Also, I would hope your town is smart enough to have an insurance policy to protect them when involved in lawsuits of this nature.
     
  7. OurBigTrip

    OurBigTrip DIS Veteran

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    Seems to me it would be perfectly legal and no, I don't find it appalling at all.
     
  8. leebee

    leebee DIS Veteran

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    I'll clarify a bit…

    Many towns in our state only have a K-8 school. They send ALL their high school students to neighboring towns' high schools. It's called "School Choice," and we are considered a "Choice Town." There is a per student tuition agreement in effect with the accepting schools, which the sending towns pay from their tax basis. Each year, students choose which high school they want to attend, and ALL our eighth graders go to one of these schools; we have contracts with 7 schools in 6 different towns to accept our students (and actually, students can choose to go to any school in the state, tuition free, regardless of whether we have a contract with them- it's the law regarding school choice). One of these schools is one of the top two in the state, and parents choose to move to Choice Towns for the benefit of sending their kids to this school without having to pay tuition out of pocket.

    The accepting school (in the town where I live) IS accepting new 9th graders from sending towns… just not accepting kids with IEPs and 504 plans. I worry that this will be considered discrimination, and there could be lawsuits and repercussion. While I teach in special ed and know what we are required to provide for students who qualify, I am NOT a lawyer and don't know much about the application of the written special ed laws in a situation like this.

    Also… I was hoping that someone with experience in special ed law would chime in, and realized after posting that it'd be better on the disABILITIES Community Board. Mods, please move this if you agree.
     
  9. SteveMouse

    SteveMouse DIS Veteran

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  10. bookwormde

    bookwormde <font color=darkorchid>Heading out now, another ad

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    If the neighboring district (town) is accepting students who do not have disabilities and refuses to accept students with disabilities, then the home district should immediately contact their regional center for the federal office of civil rights for guidance and support. Going this direction is usually not overly financially burdensome for either district unless one of the districts decides to challenge the finding or refuses to implement the consent decree.

    State law is substantially mute, if there is a federal OCR violation no addressed by state law
     
  11. leebee

    leebee DIS Veteran

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  12. SueM in MN

    SueM in MN combining the teacups with a roller coaster Moderator

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    My guess (and only a guess) is that it would come down to what the contract between the individual districts actually says, along with the information that SteveMouse provided links to.

    The 'home' district is the one that has the mandate to provide an education who reside in their district.
    The 'chosen' district has a mandate to provide services to children who reside in their district and would cover them first. There may be some specific language in the contract that specifies what happens to outside students when the 'chosen' district is having trouble meeting the needs of children in their own district.
    I am not certain whether accepting students without special needs has any bearing or not in this situation. It looks like the law has quite a few individual student approval steps built in.
     
  13. lanejudy

    lanejudy Moderator Moderator

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    We also live in a state with quite a bit of school choice, just like you describe, OP, with the tuition paid by the local community's taxes. I believe in your case...the accepting schools are under no obligation to educate students from another district -- choice or no, local high school or no. As you mentioned there are several local choices as well as technically any school in the state, no one school has any obligation to accept any specific student from any sending school as their first obligation is to their own students who live in their town. Though I agree there could be contract language involved, it boils down to the basics -- which community has the legal responsibility for FAPE? and the answer is the sending town, which is your school, not the accepting town.

    One alternative is for your community (the "sending town") to join a local union district that includes a high school, rather than offering "choice" and paying tuition. Once you do, that district will be required to educate all students in your town as the local public school (and your tax dollars would be designated there plus you'd have representation on their school board). But this would eliminate the school choice option for all your students, and at least around here that's not very popular in such communities. With rising educational costs, and in small towns one or more additional students choosing an expensive high school can have serious impact to the town's budget, many here are starting to consider this option more seriously.

    Good luck! You are a very caring teacher to be so concerned about your students' future learning options.
     
  14. jodifla

    jodifla WDW lover since 1972

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    Here's how it works in Michigan, where we have a lot of school of choice:

    1. If the receiving district decides to be a tuition district, in which the parents pay fees, then they can pick and choose which students they want.

    2. If the receiving district accepts state money, then they CANNOT discriminate due to race, sex, disability, etc.

    So what you are describing would be illegal here.
     
  15. jodifla

    jodifla WDW lover since 1972

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    No. 6a talks about the school districts having a mutual agreement on transportation and special education. One school can't really unilaterally decide this -- or if they did, I would think the other school district would simply stop sending any of its students there. It would no longer be feasible for them to do so.
     
  16. Paging Tom Morrow

    Paging Tom Morrow DIS Veteran

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    If I wanted my child to go there, I wouldn't file a 504 plan or IEP until after he/she had completed their first day of school. If they refused the service at that point, it would make for a very interesting ADA case.
     
  17. Schmeck

    Schmeck <font color=blue>Funny thing is now my 17 year old

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    But then you'd have had a child in need of services for 9 years without an ed plan - not a good decision for that child. If the child already has an IEP or 504, you can't just hang back and not give it to the school until the second day. They will know it already exists because records have to come before the student gets officially enrolled.
     
  18. Hasil72

    Hasil72 DIS Veteran

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    Choice schools are still relatively new here and they keep changing the rules. I work for a "Choice School" in our state and unfortunately, the way NJ has the application process worded, it is legal to deny admission to students with IEPs BUT only if the school shows it either doesn't have a program for that student's needs or if it would be an exceptional financial expense to provide services. They can't deny just on the basis of having an IEP or even a disciplinary issue/history. Sending districts don't pay tuition to us anymore, the state $ follows the student. Whatever the per student aid that NJ pays to the home district is sent to the school the student attends instead of where they live. For example, my ASD son would probably not be accepted at my school because he requires a 1:1 aide so it's considered an exceptional burden. If I waived the aide, it would be a different story, but I won't.
     
  19. Andianna

    Andianna Mouseketeer

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    This is very concerning as this may be a continuing trend. Understandable on both ends it is very expensive to educate any child and more with a child with a disability. It is sad to know that not all children will be afforded the right to be educated in a school of choice in these communities. We struggle in My area with underfunded Sped Ed departments and school systems not fully equipped to serve all children with disabilities. It concerns me as a grandparent that my grandchild will not be prepared for life after school.
     
  20. snarlingcoyote

    snarlingcoyote <font color=blue>I know people who live in really

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    I have no family or friends with kids currently living in the state of Maine. However, I am absolutely fascinated by this situation, considering the state law in place.

    Please, please OP,keep us posted on how it plays out!
     
  21. omegsmom

    omegsmom Mouseketeer

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    I'd be interested to hear what you learn... I also live in Maine and am in a K-8 town with no high school... we were a choice town until the RSU (regional school unit) movement... Now we are in a situation where the only town in our RSU with a high school is negotiating withdrawal. If that happens we need a 10 year contract with a high school, but could end up with a couple of options... I guess I would want to make sure that our contract does make it so the towns cannot exclude anyone based on having an IEP/504 plan... Actually, I'm surprised after the RSU's began that there are still towns with high school choice. We won't be allowed to return to full high school choice like we had in the past, but a lot of us want our kids to all stay together for high school anyway and just hope we contract with a good one! :)
     

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