026-12 Private Pre-schools – Child Find
Parents unilaterally place their child in a private pre-school located in a school division different from where they live. The school division where the private pre-school is located determines that the private school is "non-profit" but does not meet the definition of "elementary school." Although the child is then not entitled to "equitable services", which school division is responsible for child find?1
FAQ 013-10 addresses private pre-schools and equitable services, and specific issues related to determining whether or not a private pre-school meets the definition of "elementary school." In that case, it is correct to say that when the school division (LEA) determines that the private pre-school does not meet the definition of "elementary school," the child is not eligible for equitable services under the school division’s "set aside monies" (proportionate share calculation). FAQ 013-10 also notes that when dealing with issues involving parentally-placed private school children with disabilities, the school division of location2 must determine whether the private school is "for profit" or "non-profit." Therefore, consistent with FAQ 013-10, the private pre-school school must be "non-profit" and meet the definition of "elementary school" in order to meet the threshold consideration for accessing equitable services.
The child find obligation exists independently from the requirements related to equitable participation. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has stated that a LEA is still responsible for child find activities even if the private school is "for profit". (Letter to Chapman, 49 IDELR 163, August 22, 2007). OSEP emphasizes that even if the private school does not meet the definition of elementary school and the child, thus, is not eligible for equitable services, the State must ensure that all children residing in the State, including children with disabilities attending private schools, and who are in need of special education and related services, are identified, located, and evaluated, including those attending for-profit private schools. (IDEA §1412(a)(3)(A); corresponding federal regulations at 34 CFR §300.111).
OSEP left it to the States to determine whether the LEA of location or the LEA of residence is responsible for child find activities in this instance. VDOE determined that the LEA of location is responsible for ensuring child find activities for students in "for profit" and "non-profit" schools.3 However, if the LEA of location identifies that the private pre-school does not meet the definition of "elementary school" whether or not it is operating as a "non-profit", the placement is considered for purposes other than education, such as day care, and therefore, the child is not privately placed in a pre-school. In that instance, the child find responsibilities are with the LEA of residence.
1 While this inquiry focuses on private pre-school facilities, the response relates to all private schools.
2 LEA of location is the school division where the private school is located. LEA of residence is the school division in which the parent resides. While the LEA of location and LEA of residence may be one and the same, the question noted above is in the context of the parent living in one school division and placing the child in a private school in another school division.
3 Superintendent’s Memo, Interpretive, No.1, February 9, 2007. Informational Memos to Special Education Administrators from H. Douglas Cox, dated November 15, 2007 and December 14, 2007.