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Border Wars

Do you have students placed in out-of-state residential (boarding) schools by parents?  If so, this OSEP guidance letter may be of interest to you, particularly if some of those students are in Massachusetts and the state or the school has previously sent the parents back to you for evaluation if there was a potential special education issue.  In a letter directed to the State Director of Special Education, Letter to Mittnacht, 48 IDELR 194 (OSEP 2007), OSEP Director Alexa Posny indicated that the plan submitted by Massachusetts for compliance with IDEA 2004 may not be in compliance with the federal law.  Specifically, it appears that parents of students placed in Massachusetts residential and boarding schools who have attempted to refer those students for initial special education evaluations may have been told that the local school district will not conduct the evaluation if the student was an out-of-state resident.  Ms. Posny politely pointed out that this may conflict with 34 C.F.R. 300.131(f), which requires the local school district to take responsibility for child find, even if the student is a resident of another state, like Connecticut.

The OSEP letter goes on to say that these parentally-placed private school students from other states should also be counted as special education students within the school district for purposes of calculating the “proportionate share” of IDEA funding that is available to be spent on private school special education students in the district.  For those school districts in Connecticut who have students parentally placed in boarding schools in Massachusetts, the fact that the Massachusetts local school district is getting the IDEA funding for that student (who may be a Connecticut resident) is a very good reason to refer that student to the Massachusetts district both for an initial eligibility evaluation, as well as triennial evaluations and other “service plan” services that the student may need while enrolled at the Massachusetts school.

Keep in mind also, that this principle is equally applicable to states other than Massachusetts, even though Massachusetts was the target of the OSEP criticism here.  Think about those kids sent to boot camp/school in Virginia, wilderness camp/school in Utah, etc.  Given that the local school district for the town where the school is located is going to get the IDEA funding for that student, don’t lose too much sleep over sending the student to that district for evaluation and other services.